‘How To Sell Death to the Living’ looks at a world dominated by large corporations, consumerism and the all pervasive materialism where men’s success is measured by the shine and speed of their cars. With a background in graphic design, and collaborations with Gucci, Wilks has first hand knowledge of this world.
In this series, Wilks uses recognisable tropes of Formula 1, replacing the male figure to inverting gender notions and explore new possibilities for the traditional representation of masculinity.
Her paintings are reminiscent of early Marlboro, Ferrari and Champion advertising and the language of men’s magazines with their vibrant colours and graphic compositions.
WIA: What are you doing today?
Frances Wilks: I had a Spanish lesson in the morning, bought some new art materials, and now I am testing and experimenting in the studio. I am starting out on some new ideas that involves painting more natural and organic forms and I want the materials I use to reflect the subject matter so I am testing!
WIA: Tell us about your creative process.
FW: Sporadic and impulsive, I am not really one for routine so the way I work can vary a lot and I like to be quite versatile. I trained in graphic design, and enjoyed the approach of problem solving. I was taught from the the cliches ‘form follows function’ or ‘the medium is the message’. So in painting I still have this mentality and think of the materials and colours I use as a tool to express the idea itself. It’s usually a process of trial and error and a lot of research, or just a lucky moment.
WIA: Describe where you do most of your creative work.
FW: At the moment in the studio I share with my girlfriend in Hackney, it’s quiet with little distractions.
WIA: What’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on?
FW: It was a satisfying experience to have just shown my first solo exhibition, as I am so used to collaborating, which is fun in it’s own way but there is always compromise involved. It’s nice to put something out there which is totally your own.
WIA: What made you decide to become an artist?
FW: At one point I was working just from my computer, and a lot of what I was producing existed solely online. I found this so frustrating! I really missed using my hands to create something physical so I started out painting again as a result. I had always been drawing, painting and sculpting as a kid but at some point found other avenues for my creativity. It began with painting for my own enjoyment but I started getting a lot of interest and support and gradually began taking it more seriously.
WIA: What are you currently working on?
FW: I’m starting out on a new series which I imagine to be purely paintings. It’s early days so I’m still experimenting and don’t want to give too much away. Also designing / art directing a couple of photography book projects, one is a charity book project for Phumelela Project, a charity I am super happy to support.
WIA: Do you listen to music while you work, and if so, what’s your soundtrack?
FW: I don’t have a set soundtrack, it changes so much depending on my mood and the way I paint changes with the music. I like to play a song on spotify and let it freestyle the rest. Lately this has been – CAN, Sister Nancy and Yves Tumor, to name a few.
WIA: What are the key themes in your work?
FW: There is a graphic element to my work. I try to say as much as possible with as little as possible.
In terms of an over arching theme, is the human condition too broad?
WIA: What would you like people to notice in your work?
WIA: What attracts you to the mediums you work in?
FW: I try to work in the mediums I feel appropriate for what I am painting. I was using mainly acrylics before because the synthetic and intense colours matched the subject matter I was painting, I wanted the materials to feel processed and manufactured.
WIA: What equipment could you not do without?
FW: My laptop, sound system, pencil, paintbrush, canvas, paint. I guess these would be the basics.
WIA: Who or what inspires you?
FW: Really anything and everything. I felt overwhelmingly inspired for a moment when gardeners world came on the tele the other day, which was totally unexpected. But I think books are super useful, and travel is important. I love travelling with my girlfriend, Coco, who is also an artist and photographer, so we take pictures wherever we go.
WIA: How does gender affect your work?
FW: About in equal measure as is affects my life. I have not complied with typical gender conventions since I can remember and this definitely comes across in my recent work. I want people to question the formalities that exist.
WIA: What’s your favourite gallery, or place to see or experience art?
FW: I love most of all to be in a big museum or institution when there is no one else around, to be all alone with the work is the goal. The Louvre ancient Egypt section at 9 or 10 on a Friday night is a favourite of mine.
WIA: If you could own one piece of art, what would it be and why?
FW: Highway to Disappearance, by Coco Capitan because of memories and sentimental reasons.
WIA: If you could collaborate with one artist, from any time, who would it be, and why?
FW: Ed Ruscha or David Hockney, I think I could learn a lot from either of them.
WIA: Is there an artist, movement or collective you’d like to see re-evaluated, or a contemporary artist who is underrated?
FW: Renny Tait, this name came to mind.
WIA: What’s your favourite colour?
FW: I guess red, people always tell me black isn’t actually a colour
For more info…