Chicago, Sept. 2009: I was first introduced to local Chicago artist, Francine Turk’s work when a little bird told me about her charcoal figures adorning the set of the film The Break Up (2006).
Turk comes from both a feminist and minimalist perspective, and much of this city’s art scene has fallen in love with her highly intimate style. While Francine was preparing for her upcoming show at Chicago Art Source (Body Language, on view from Sept 14 - Oct 30, 2009), I had the pleasure of talking with her about art history, France, and inspiring human interactions. The following are excerpts from that converation --Ashley Kuhn
Francine Turk, Francesca, 60x48 (framed); Courtesy of the Artist and Chicago Art Source Gallery
Ashley Kuhn: The focus on the female nude in your charcoal pieces reads as timeless and classic. Do you draw inspiration from art history? What movement, artist, etc?
Francine Turk: Absolutely, I am influenced and inspired by the vast history of the drawn figure from cave drawings to John Currin. Although I am acutely aware of the wide breadth of figurative artists, past and present I find myself revisiting “The Masters” up to the German Expressionists the most often. Something about the Bay Area Movement as well that creeps in and keeps me moving and thinking in studio. Sometimes I don't even know what I'm being influenced by until it stares back at me in the face.
AK: Do you work with models in studio?
FT: Working with models in the studio is really how I learned to draw the figure. Currently I have been more interested in working from books, memory- you know I'm walking my dog down the city street and you see a woman gesturing to a friend in conversation and something about they way her hands move reminds me of an Egon Schiele or a Lucian Freud piece. So when I get back to my studio my works can reflect that kind of memory. I often work from my own old drawings/studies/ sketches. It's this non-ending experiment working and reworking drawings. I feel like there is something in these drawings that I am trying to work through, small gestures that change slightly with each drawing showing that time does actually pass...
AK: Do you intend for your figures, often captured in intimate poses, to personify emotions, or are they to be read as more of human experience in general?
FT: I definitely view my works as vehicle for people to connect and relate to artwork. I think too often art is something that is perceived as out of reach for many people, it's something that can feel just over their heads. I believe that artwork is not complete until a viewer connects with it; something magical happens in the air in-between the work and viewers eyes. It's a beautiful thing and that is when I know a piece is successful.
Francine Turk, When in Paris-Petite1, 30x22, Oil Pastel and Acrylic on Paper; Courtesy of the Artist and Chicago Art Source Gallery
AK: I love your quote for your upcoming exhibition at Chicago Art Source, "I live in France...in my head." Tell me a little about the upcoming show and what this collection of works says to the viewer.
FT: When I am in Paris I feel connected to the city in a way that completes my soul. It's hard to explain, but it's a feeling that inspires me to make things I never thought I would. The art and architectural history as well as the written word, fills me with a desire to go mad in studio. It's a spiritual and healing inspiration that pushes me to new heights. The works in this show are so fresh and new--- not a complete departure from where my works have been headed, just a new and exciting dimension. There is clarity and directness to these works that are so ready to be seen!
AK: Working with oil paint, and combining other mediums -- Do you begin with a concept or idea and express it through the medium that works best?
FT: I definitely have a "gut" instinct as to what medium will best express the concept best---and it can be a hard lesson for many artist's to learn but I have learned that my "gut" is usually right, so I don't fight it. I give in to my impulses to make and therefore I work through a lot of mistakes working and reworking to get what can look like a simple result. The pieces that may appear the cleanest and most facile are often the most difficult and frustrating.
Francine Turk, Impressions of Pere La Chaise First Series-2, 20x26; Courtesy of the Artist and Chicago Art Source Gallery
AK: What is your creative process?
FT: I often times start with a feeling, it may not be something I can identify clearly, it's often complex. I can be hard to explain, but I think some of my best pieces come when I am kind of “checked out”. Not really thinking just having the confidence that my hands and eyes know what to do, I can work fast and decisively but the challenge in that is when I check back in that I don't start to over think or kill the piece because when I do that the works go in the garbage can. The key for me is to believe in my impulse to make and the rest will take care of itself, I think.
ArtSlant would like to thank Francine Turk for her assistance in making this interview possible.