The ING Discerning Eye exhibition returns to The Mall Galleries, London, this November, showcasing selected works by emerging and established artists across a range of media. London-based practitioner Francesca Blomfield (b. 1990), whose drawings are part of the show, discusses her practice, art in the digital age and the wider impact of ING Discerning Eye.
A: Painting is a time-honoured method that is continually developing. How important is this medium in an increasingly digital landscape?
FB: Painting as a practice is continually developing, and this is why I am continually drawn to it. It is an ancient technology that reflects the power structures surrounding it. Since the internet has been around, people’s lives have become governed by the digital through email, smart phones etc. For some artists this has informed a direct relationship to technology.
The digital comes with an illusion that it is invisible – a microscopic technology with fast moving tendencies – when in fact, it exists as part of a vast telecommunications industry. At the same time, it has allowed for a degree of connection between people and information like never before – allowing people to meet, share freely and communicate. I’m not entirely sure where the “digital landscape” will end up or what it will become.
More recently, I am less and less interested in a pressure to appease or reflect the digital within my work. In my paintings and drawings, I want to reject it for the time being, instead focusing on an inner language. These are formulated automatically; I am utilising paint as a technology to reflect this personal dialogue.
A: Your paintings often combine text and visuals in conceptually compelling ways. What informs this decision, and how do the chosen words and images connect?
FB: Currently, the work I am making focuses on marginal thoughts that have a visionary or transmitted feeling. There has been a shift; I am making night paintings about a specific register or atmosphere, one that creates space for the subversive, repressed or eosoteric.
I am looking to project feelings that often culminate in an intensity within the work. The paintings have a relationship to marginalia – notes and images written on the side of manuscripts. These are seen in medieval manuscripts created anonymously by monks. I suppose the words in the paintings are tangents, they also operate as characters in their cryptic fonts. They carry authority and voice.
A: How does your work explore life in a 21st century, technologically-dominated society?
FB: My work recently has – to an extent – come to reject digital aspects of a technological society, although there remains a focus on other worlds and marginal spaces. The paintings and drawings I make riff from the words in the texts, and they may also become books or printed matter. Parts of the text leak into the paintings.
Although I reject a digital process in the painting – working instead with notions of craft and an increasingly personal language – hopefully these ideas will resonate universally. I like the idea that people can connect and manifest things that exist outside of time. It’s not tangible. In some ways this intangible thing – the way humans connect and manifest – is a technology, but not necessarily in a digital sense.
A: The industry – like any other – still carries a certain amount of imbalance. How powerful are platforms such as ING Discerning Eye for championing diversity in the arts?
FB: I think all platforms are good for getting your work seen. I think the systematic power imbalance that exists in relation to gender, sexuality, class and race is a complex and upsetting issue. It’s certainly powerful and I hope in my lifetime I will see this changed at both an institutional and social level.
A: Can you tell us about the work you will be exhibiting in the 2018 ING Discerning Eye exhibition?
FB: I am presenting two original drawings from an ongoing series. They form the basis of my paintings. The work I submitted was printed in my recent book Four (2018) that was published by Ginny. This was a four-part book of drawings and three pieces of recent writing.
A: What projects are you currently working on?
FB:I am currently undertaking an MA in painting at the Royal College of Art and taking time to work on my paintings in the studio. I graduate in June 2019.
The ING Discerning Eye Exhibition runs from 15-25 November at Mall Galleries, London. Find out more here.
1. Image courtesy Francesca Blomfield.