Focus speaks with artist Franc Hancock about his stunning art work, his inspiration and exhibition this month at the Manning Regional Gallery, Taree.
Name: Franc Hancock.
> Where are you from?
I’ve been living back in Stuarts Point for 10 years now. I had been living in the Blue Mountains before that. My family are from the Macleay Valley area.
> How long have you been painting?
I’ve been working in artistic fields for many years – mainly sculpture themed. I was a landscaper for many years, and that’s very sculptural. In the 1980s I was an airbrush artist, creating ‘hand painted’ bikinis for the Brian Rochford swimwear label.
I developed my current style during the last year of my Diploma of Fine Arts at Kempsey TAFE, about three years ago. Technically what I do is a form of drawing.
> Describe your style?
I produce large abstract Sumi Ink works on paper. The works are visually decorative and always black, white and grayscale. Sumi Ink is a Japanese black ink made from soot.
I work outdoors on the ground and employ wind and rainwater as well as a special resist technique to assist in adding texture. I work with the paper covered with up to 20 litres of water and often have to lift the sheets wet to empty the water off. When I first started I lost many works, because they simply fell to pieces!
It took a while to develop a way of handling 2 metres of wet paper without disaster. Because I work outdoors, I still find myself picking up art works, only to have a small breeze carry them away, rolling across the ground – leaving me with two hands full of wet paper.
> Where do you find your inspiration?
My art is influenced by patterns in my visual world, by satellite photography of the planet’s surface, by minimalism, by romanticism, by expressionism, by a love of decorative surface. Especially by Sumi Ink.
During my high school years, I found comfort in the escapism of the mythology section of our school library during lunchtimes. I was also a great fan of director Don Chaffey’s 1963 classic stop frame animation movie, Jason and the Argonauts. Further into my life I developed an attraction to the Neo Classical and Romanticist periods of art history.
I like the emotive themes of Mythology and often use these to draw parallels to contemporary events. As an example, there are many stories in Mythology concerning transformation. The nymph Daphne was transformed into a flowering plant.
I use a contemporary view of this transformation being equivalent to experiencing a drastic, life changing event. One work in this theme was created after seeing a man reduced to a catatonic state after surviving the Victorian bushfire disasters.
> Who are some major influences on your work?
I like some of the minimalist concepts of Frank Stella and Robert Morris. I was really moved by the sculptures of Bronwyn Oliver. I like the way she created form by repetition. I’m influenced by the ink work of Jorg Schmeisser, and most of all by hundreds of years of traditional Sumi artists from Asia.
> You work in a large format. What’s the attraction of working on such a large scale?
I was always drawn to large scale art works. I think I like to be close enough to the work I am creating to fill my visual field, as if I am immersed in the ink work.
I like the way that my works create strong images from a distance and the way this changes as you get closer, revealing very fine detail – almost as if there were two art works in one. I think that working in black Sumi Ink on white paper lends itself to very dramatic pieces of art at this size.
> What is one of the highlights so far in your artistic career?
A group of people: Jim Matsinos, Miriam Latimore, David Malikoff and Hilary Elphick recently put together a recital to raise funds to purchase one of my works to go into the Port Macquarie Council permanent collection. It was called Songlines and was held in the gallery at the Glasshouse last November. I was humbled to find this group of people giving so freely of their time to promote my art.
> Where do you hope to be with your career 5 years from now?
My exhibition at the Manning Regional Gallery is my first regional exhibition. I would like to continue to show at this level.
In 2012 I am hoping to travel to Japan to study Sumi Ink and paper making at a higher level. I would like to create my sculptures from paper I have made myself.
I have just completed a commission for an overseas architect and hope that in five years time I will also be exhibiting in countries outside Australia. Because I work with Japanese media, Sumi Ink, paper and bamboo, I would like to exhibit in Japan.
> Tell us about your exhibition at the Manning Regional Art Gallery?
My exhibition at the Manning Regional Gallery runs from 9 February to 13 March. I will be showing works from the last two years of my exhibition practice, as well as work created specifically for this show. People can expect to see dramatic and decorative large format ink works on paper, as well as paper sculpture.
I feel that my work presents a contemporary direction using a very old and traditional art form. People attending will also see some of these works presented in a sculptural context.
> Thank you Franc.