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Interview: Francesca Larkin's Ecstatic Experiences

Interview: Francesca Larkin's Ecstatic Experiences

Lives and works in Aachen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany

Tell us about yourself, how did you become an artist?

I’ve always drawn and made things, it didn’t matter where I was or what tools I had available to me. Creating things and consuming all forms of art has always been a necessity so I never thought twice about becoming an artist.

Studio shot by Gerd Plitzner

What is your background? and how did it inform the focus of your creative exploration or the medium you're currently working with?

It was in art school that my fascination with the pictorial and narrative conventions of Western religious painting began. Learning about historical painting traditions made me examine contemporary modes of image production and the interpretative tools used to decode visual culture. For my thesis, I developed a practice of lifting digital imagery and making collaged scenes and portraits adhering to renaissance pictorial conventions that I later realized into paintings. I considered myself a mostly analogue painter depicting digital source materials, but the use of technology was more entwined in my work than I had realized. Eventually, the gap between digital and analogue mediums and processes got smaller and smaller until I went completely into digital painting. Since last year, I’ve predominantly made digital paintings on my iPad to be able to work away from the studio.

Studio shot by Gerd Plitzner

What ideas interested you in the beginning of your practice, which ideas have you continued to explore, and where have they led you?

At the beginning I was really interested in appropriating found imagery and iconography from both religious paintings and internet content. Other interests were the materiality of paint, collapsing rendered illusions of space and using pattern and color to connote ecstatic experiences. I think vestiges of those interests persist in my work but having shifted from analogue to digitization means those ideas are now differently translated. I also do not explicitly reference historical paintings anymore. Instead, I'm tapping into the aesthetics of poor-quality uploaded photos, low-brow user generated internet imagery and the attendant cultural dialect. I’ve also always been drawn to depictions of the weird, the eerie and the uncanny and I would hope people viewing my work experience both amusement and unease.

Untitled work in progress

Who were and are the biggest sources of your inspiration?

I used to study the paintings of Fra Angelico, Giotto and contemporary painters like Daniel Richter, Neo Rausch and Martin Kippenberger. Nowadays I go on Instagram, and artists whose work I have found really compelling are Marijpol, Louisa Gagliardi, Lady Dangfua, Hadassah Emmerich, Morgan Blair, and Gao Hang. I also follow the Instagram account @doubleactionreport run by another great artist called Chris Regner. It’s an archive of works made by artists who use airbrushing and it’s fantastic!

Alles Supi

Where do you find inspiration?

Although exhibitions and studio visits are reinvigorating and something I’ve sorely missed, I have a routine for myself that relies on very few tools. Inspiration comes through surfing the internet for wacky images and hilarious memes and getting really sucked into cyber rabbit holes. I dive in, re-emerge and then go offline to review these images I’ve collected and to sit with a notebook or sketch book. Sometimes I skip this step if I want to draw something on my iPad with immediacy and complete abandon. Some books I’m currently reading are: Glitch Feminism: A Manifesto, Art in the Age of the Internet:1989 to Today, The Wretched of the Screen, Art and Laughter, Duty Free Art: Art in the Age of Planetary Civil War, Mysteries of the Rectangle: Essays on Painting and Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion.

Buff Boi 2

Is there are a single work, project, or series that is pivotal in your current trajectory?

I wouldn’t say there’s a single work or project that informs my current trajectory. I’d say restructuring the way I worked during the pandemic and trying to do something new and fun in such a difficult time was the catalyst for fully embracing digital painting. I’m glad I used this time to experiment with internet ugly aesthetics because it was much more productive than doom-scrolling.

Legs Legs Legs

How did it begin? and how did it evolve?

At home and forced out of a normal routine, I just practically and mentally didn’t know how to be creative like I had been before lockdown. I was watching TV, scrolling through endless TikToks and chuckling at memes. I overwhelmed and oversaturated myself with content so much that at some point I stopped using my iPad to passively consume things and tried the drawing apps I had neglected. It was awkward at first but I also liked the frictionless drawing experience of the pen slipping around on the screen surface. I remember I went through a phase of drawing abstract forms of whatever funny or silly pop-cultural “thing” caught my attention, but I’ve come back to making focused and intentional figurative work.

LOLCat 12

What were important lessons in the process that you’ve carried forward with you?

For me, to pursue whatever is on your mind, especially if it’s really eating at you. Try it out and if it doesn’t work at least you know but letting these ideas sit stagnant in your mind is disruptive to creative workflow.

Not Simple, work in progress

What are you working on now?

There are so many overlapping and rapidly reproducing genres of memes that I make many different bodies of work iteratively and simultaneously. However, one series that I’ve been slowly developing this year explores internet images of humanoid and hybrid bodies, sexual expression, fetish, taboo desire and “self-optimization”. I'm also thinking a lot about post-humanism and what it means to live in the post-digital age.

untitled, work in progress

If you could go back in time to the very beginning of your art practice and give your younger self a single piece of advice what would it be?

Don’t let the fear and embarrassment of making a bad piece of art paralyze you from making anything. Make bad art, and then get over it.

Aufgekochte Milch n.13, 2020, digital painting

About the Artist

Based in Aachen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany

Francesca Larkin (b. 1991) is a Taiwanese-British artist working in painting and digital media. She received her Bachelor of Visual Arts Honours from the Australian National University, School of Art in 2013. She is currently based in Germany and has participated in group shows with the artist community Halle 1 in Aachen and has exhibited with Galerie Freitag 18.30.

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