Interview with Alexandra Francis
Alexandra Francis is an emerging mixed media artist who is based in Leeds, England. She has exhibited as part of various group exhibitions in Leeds, as well as a group exhibition in Catalonia, Spain, entitled “We are here in Yellow and Red”. As an artist, she enjoys promoting peace and positivity throughout the artwork that she creates. This is the second interview on Specialinterview.com and we’re happy to have her as our first of 10 interviews.
Your art conveys the message of peace. What really inspires you for the same and why?
There are a lot of negative events that occur in every country of the world, that we are made aware of on a daily basis, whether through television, social media, written documents, word of mouth or what we witness first hand. If we were to say that the negative events have started to occur during this Century, then I do not believe that to be true. There have been wars between countries and people for an extremely long period of time, and I believe that it is possible that these negative events will continue to occur in this world, unless we as individual people join together in unison to form communities that preach peace instead of war, love instead of hatred.
I, as I am sure that a lot of other people would also agree with, would like to see the countries of the world continue to evolve, but not evolve in a way that would bring harm to mankind, the animal kingdom or mother nature. People suffer through being attacked on the streets, through being bullied, through war, through hatred. People suffer because they are of a different race or religion to other people, and so they are attacked for the way that they live their own lives. I believe that if people helped one another more often in this world, by not tolerating racism or racist acts, bullying, war, attacks against those who believe in other religions to ourselves, by not tolerating forms of negativity, then I think we could prevent a lot of these negative events that happen too often throughout every country of the world. You cannot just expect there to be no negative events to happen in this world unless you stand up against negativity itself, and do an act of positivity that will help to prevent negative events occurring in the future.
I believe that one person alone cannot change the world for the better, but if as many people as possible can help to promote peace and positivity throughout every country of the world, then we will be able to do something that will prevent negative events from occurring in the future. I am inspired to promote peace through the words of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, of being able to “give peace a chance” and that “war is over”, but I am also inspired to promote peace and positivity through the negative events that I am made aware of, that occur all across the world on a daily basis. I think that together; people can make a change that will benefit every single person on this earth. I strongly promote peace and positivity throughout my artwork and would like to continue to promote peace through further interviews, exhibitions and congregations in the future to come.
Tell us about the creativity part for creating an art sculpture. What’s the inner process that you go through before and during creating it?
When I create a sculpture, I often find that any idea that I have for the creation of a sculpture, or any piece of artwork at all for that matter, is a good idea. I am very spontaneous as an artist and will work with any idea that I think of, and often find that I am always motivated to create pieces of artwork that I have never had the experience of creating beforehand. There is no instruction booklet on how to create a sculpture, and individual people will find that they have their own ways of creating sculptures. Perhaps you plan how the sculpture will look as the end result before you begin the creating process, perhaps you don’t plan how the sculpture will look as the end result. You may name your artwork before you begin to create it or perhaps you name your artwork after you have created it.
I had an opportunity to work with Ken Scott, a record engineer and producer for bands and artists such as The Beatles, David Bowie, Elton John and Duran Duran. I remember him saying, during the time period of when a group of people worked with him, that we will only truly learn how to do something successfully if we experience it happening to us personally. You can watch someone work for hours in hope that you will master a particular technique, however you will only truly learn how to master a technique if you experience the opportunity to master the technique for yourself, without watching someone else work to show you how to do it.
I often plan how my artwork will look as an end result, sometimes I draw images beforehand of how I expect my work to appear, however sometimes the sculpture changes during the period of when I am creating it – this is because I am always experimenting with different materials whilst I am creating a particular artwork, and those materials often find themselves included in the artwork in one way or another, even if the materials are not included in the initial plans of how the work will appear. I often find that the sculpture that I create will begin as one idea, and finish as another idea, because of how much the sculpture will have visually changed throughout the process of creating it. I don’t believe this is a bad thing to happen, because life is all about change. Changes are always occurring throughout our lives, and I believe that we have to use the changes that occur to our advantage. If my artwork seems to change from the initial plan for the artwork, throughout the time when I am creating it, then that is fine to me – as long as I enjoy the experimental process of creating the final piece of work.
When it comes to the materials that I use to create my sculptures, I find that any material is good to use. Pushpins, pearls, pieces of wood, paper, tissue, cutlery, string, pine cones, if you have any materials at all, you can create something unique. There is no particular process that I follow through with when I create a sculpture, sometimes I plan how the sculpture will appear as an end result and sometimes I just allow the work to create itself when I am creating it. I think that the best way to create a sculpture is when you do not plan the artwork beforehand, that way you are oblivious to how the final artwork will appear, and the thought of not knowing how an artwork will look as an end result is very exciting to me.
Tell us about various artworks that you’ve done so far and reasons to keep the names that you’ve chosen for them.
I have recently finished creating an interaction installation that is formed completely of red balloon ribbon. The idea of the installation is that during an exhibition, visitors are invited to tie a piece of purple balloon ribbon around the red balloon ribbon that is hung up by nails on a wall, to symbolise the act of the visitor making a personal wish. I believe that the interaction installation “My Only Wish…” is similar to the folklore of making a wish by throwing a penny into a wishing well. Though it may seem that my initial inspiration for the “My Only wish…” interaction installation that I created in August 2016, was the folklore of the wishing well, it was actually the work “Wish Tree” by the artist Yoko Ono that inspired me to create the “My Only Wish…” installation. Throughout the installation “Wish Tree” by Yoko Ono, visitors were invited to write their personal wishes on a piece of paper and tie the piece of paper around a branch on the tree.
I thought the work “Wish Tree” was a fantastic way to involve the public with the interaction of the installation, and that it encouraged positive thinking throughout all age ranges. It was only after I created my interaction installation, that was initially an experimental piece of artwork, that I thought of the name of which the installation would be known as. At the time when I created the installation “My Only Wish…” I was thinking about how I wanted to create a piece of artwork that would encourage my audience to interact with the artwork on a personal level. We all have our own personal wishes for the future, and sometimes I think that people feel more comfortable if their personal wishes are not expressed openly to other people, which was why the “My Only Wish…” interaction installation focuses on tying a piece of purple ribbon around the red ribbon.This act is used to symbolize that someone has made a wish without that person openly or verbally stating so.
Another sculpture installation that I have recently created is known as “Let’s Play!” It is a white painted plank of wood that has thirty-two pearls glued on to the surface of it. On the area at one particular end of the wood, there are other pearls that have seemingly rolled off of the artwork. The pearls that appear to have rolled off of the installation sculpture are not glued onto anything, and so the formation of the pearls can be changed easily. With the intention of exhibiting this sculpture installation in the future, it will be interesting to see what reactions the installation sculpture “Let’s Play!” evokes from the audience. Visitors are not encouraged to touch the artwork nor are the visitors encouraged to not touch the artwork, it is by the audience members own desire to do so that will be the interesting aspect of the work. If the pearls that are not stable as such are moved by the hands of an audience member, then that is fine. If the members of the audience choose not to touch the artwork, then that is also fine. There is no right or wrong way to interact with this sculpture installation. It is this idea of not completely knowing how to interact with the artwork that brings the playful element into the art sculpture, which is the reason why the work was called “Let’s Play!”
“Pearl of Life” is a sculpture that was created using a shelf and a single pearl. I find that although pearls appear to be beautiful, they also seem to be very delicate – like a flower that you are attracted to in a flower garden. The flower may be beautiful, but if you were to pick the flower, you would kill it. The pearl seen in this sculpture is used to represent life. When I was younger, I used to imagine the world being nothing more than a snow globe, for beings much larger than ourselves. When the snow globe was moved or shaken, we on earth, would receive snow. The idea of being able to contain life within a snow globe, can be related to the idea that a single pearl can contain answers to the questions in life, that we are never able to answer. The desires that we have, the wishes that we wish for, the reasons as to why we meet the people that we meet in life, the reasons why we have to suffer yet we experience love, joy and hope. I suppose that these are the type of things that people lose sleep over. People cannot sleep on a night because they think about the kind of things that they have no answers for in life, that they cannot explain or that they do not understand. You could say that the sculpture “Pearl of Life” is my own way of trying to be able to understand and answer the questions that I personally, cannot answer in life. It is an attempt to form some sort of understanding of the world that we live in, and to understand the experiences that we have had the opportunity in the past to experience. The name “Pearl of Life” seemed to be very appropriate for this sculpturewhen I created the sculpture, and still seems to be appropriate to this day.
“In the wind” is an experimental performance artwork that you’ve performed recently. Can you please shed more light on this?
In The Wind is a performance artwork that enhances the trust between the artist and the energy of the world. During this performance, In The Wind, the installation investigates and explores how wind can play a vital part in the performance of an artwork. The wind that is used during the performance of the artwork, In The Wind, plays a vital part of the performance, as the wind is the reason why there is movement in the work. It guides the ribbon that is used throughout this performance in the air, in a way that fulfills the performance, and without the wind, there would be no artwork. You could say that the artwork and the performance promotes trust.
I had to trust that there would be wind on that particular day when the work was performed, otherwise there would have been no movement in the work. If there had been no movement in the work, then the performance would have been different to how I would have expected it to have been like. I would have had to improvise throughout the performance – which would have been interesting, because I do wonder what would have happened if I would have had to improvise at that time. To me, there is nothing more satisfying and beautiful than creating artwork that involves the nature of the world. I did not have to do anything to have the wind play a vital part of the performance. It is similar to how the flowers receive the rain drops to grow, the flowers do not have to ask for the rain to water them, it is the nature of the world and that is why that happens.
The balloon ribbon that played another vital part of the performance, was only used to promote the wind, and how the wind can cause changes to us and the work we create. We cannot see the wind; it is only something that we can feel. We can see the leaves and the trees in movement because of the wind, but it is impossible to physically see the wind itself. By offering the audience of the performance “In The Wind” a material that the audience members could visually focus on during the performance, in this case, the red balloon ribbon, I was able to visually show the effects that the wind has on the physical world. You see, throughout this performance, though it may seem that the red ribbon is the main aspect of the work, it is not, it is simply to enhance the concept of the wind, and how wind can affect human beings and the world that we live in.
Where have you exhibited so far? And where’s next?
I have exhibited as part of various group exhibitions in Leeds, England, including at The Brunswick, Leeds Beckett university and Studio 24, gate 2, located at Mabgate, between the years of 2014 and 2016. I have also exhibited as part of a group exhibition entitled “We are here in Yellow and Red” at the Escola d’Arti Superior de Disseny de Vic in Catalonia, Spain, in April 2015. On the 2nd and 3rd of July 2016, I held an exhibition at an outside venue, as part of the community event, the Horsforth Walk of ART. A range of paintings and prints that I have created in 2016, will be displayed at the Old Red Bus Station in Leeds, England, between the dates of the 26th of August and the 9th of September, 2016. The prints will then be exhibited again in the future, at the arts space Seven, in Leeds, in 2017. I am currently researching into exhibiting in other countries of the world, and I am eager to be able to share my artwork and continue to promote peace and positivity in the future.