Aileen Francis is a passionate artist, maker and art collector. Watching her talk about the simplest of things such as the way a shadow is cast by reflected light is fascinating to watch.
I've been an admirer of Aileen's work for some years now ever since I opened the gallery in 2014 and have been on the hunt for local artists. Her style, medium and subject matter varies greatly from series to series and this new body of work is no different. Using recycled sheet metal from a large, collapsed, outdoor sculpture she has created small figures that seem to writhe and sway as if blown about by the wind. Creating the illusion of movement is one of Aileen's talents. The characters throughout all of her series seem to have physical momentum.
I visited Aileen at her lovely home studio at Clifton grove just outside of Orange to find out more about her new body of work. On display this week at the gallery for "States of Matter - an exhibition of sculpture by Aileen Francis and Chris Cowell" - Opening Night Friday November 3rd from 6pm.
Tell us about your background and how you came to be a sculptor?
I lived in the western burbs of Sydney and had a career in plant pathological research and extension in the NSW Department of Agriculture, Rydalmere. We moved to Orange in 1996 and by 2002 I decided I needed a change of direction. While in Sydney I had studied Colour and Design at Cammeray for 2 years, which I thoroughly enjoyed, especially the struggles with thinking differently, so I enrolled in Fine Arts at TAFE Orange. The teachers were inspiring and wonderful mentors. Once introduced to sculpture, it became the beginning of my much loved second career: 2D just didn’t cut it for me anymore though I have painted a large mural in the Pilates and Movement Therapy Studio, Orange .
What are your favourite materials to work with and why?
In my practice I like to combine science and art whenever possible, and also use the human form in a simplified manner. My preferred materials are stone and metal for their physicality and touch, though the ideas I wish to present often require the use of other materials. Once a topic to be explored presents itself I research the background to develop interesting twists in interpretation. Then many days and weeks of experimentation with materials and many blind alleys in presentation eventually yield a solution.
You’ve lived in Orange for some time now, tell us about your involvement with the local art scene.
TAFE Orange was a wonderful introduction to the Orange art scene, and the fun and interesting people who inhabit it. I am a founding member of Rogue Sculptors Incorporated which was established in 2007 for sculptors of the Central Tablelands to regularly meet and discuss whatever, exhibit, and have a fun social time together. After finishing our TAFE studies, Aida Pottinger and I set up Colour City Creatives at the old railway Barracks on Peisley Street. Its aim again was to have a place where artists could gather and work in a supportive environment. I have worked on community projects for the new Orange Hospital, and had my designs installed on the cubes at the front entrance. I also led a community banner project to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Orange Regional Gallery, and Chris Cowell and I curated and produced works for the Cool Art exhibition in 2016 which celebrated the long history of Electrolux in Orange before it was closed.
What’s next for you and your practice?
Sculpture and art have become a major part of my life. I will continue creating and exhibiting my works for sale, though I also want to install more sculptures in our garden, and do more yarn bombing around Orange, which I haven’t done for some time.