b. 1962, Newtownards, Northern Ireland.
Over the past thirty years, Mark Francis has made paintings of singular optical intensity — powerful, apparently abstract combinations of concentrated patterning and stark colour contrasts that are in fact principally based on what the unaided human eye lacks the power to see. His work draws significantly on discoveries about the form and substance of reality that result from technologically enhanced vision. An enduring fascination, for instance, has been the visual worlds made accessible by the matter-penetrating gaze of electron microscopes: the dark, scattered, interconnecting orbs or the variously taut and slack lines of his paintings have drawn their strange forms from imagery of the miniature universe, the realm of molecular structure and cellular association out of which all life is assembled. More recently, too, Francis’ art has looked outwards, taking as points of pictorial reference the graphic interpretations of data received by radio telescopes as part of astronomers’ efforts to chart distant zones of the cosmos. Such scientific advances in the power of perception have for Francis come to present vital challenges — and opportunities — for the practice of painting. If the grid structures of his paintings suggest continuing alertness to the legacy of artistic modernism — and so to its influential arguments about the specific, limited capacities of painting as a medium — this is a burden of history always understood in relation to the revelatory insights generated by contemporary science.
Mark Francis’ solo shows include Dirimart, Istanbul (2014); Abbot Hall Gallery, UK (2010); Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane (2008); City Art Gallery, Manchester (1995); and a highly acclaimed retrospective exhibition at Milton Keynes Gallery (2000). His work was featured in New Generation, Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, Switzerland and in Cream, Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki (2010). Francis’s work featured in the much debated Saatchi Collection exhibition Sensation, Royal Academy, London and the Brooklyn Academy, New York, and in the touring exhibition Absolut Vision: New British Painting in the 1990s. He is represented in numerous collections including Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; Tate Gallery, London; Victoria & Albert Museum, London; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco; Museum of Modern Art, Miami; The Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri; and Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery, Dublin.