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Francesca Owen

Francesca Owen is an award winning artist who trained at the prestigious Slade School of Fine Art in London and completed an MA at Falmouth University. Francesca has exhibited work in SE Asia, London and Cornwall.

‘For the point of art is not how to do it, it is how to live’

That we should live as freely as possible and set an example because we have the gift of creativity in our lives is a truly precious thing.

Francesca grew up in a bustling creative household in South East London. Her mother was a window-dresser, display artist and her father assisted in the making of the stages, which travelled to fashion design shows around Europe throughout the 80s and 90s. Creativity was ingrained in the life and soul of the household and ran through her being ever since she can remember.

‘Everyday life choices can allow us to move towards freedom’

Francesca lost her mother at a young age and creativity became an intensely important point of connection and healing. With every new day, we have the choice to create life the way that we want to, start small, dream big.

An award-winning artist, she studied fine art painting at the prestigious Slade School, under the tutorship of Phyllida Barlow RA CBE, and winning two scholarships, including the Euan Uglow Memorial Scholarship. Francesca has worked with galleries in Devon and Cornwall, exhibiting paintings and installation, giving talks and courses on landscape painting, pigments and dyes.

Francesca made decisions to live and work in communities where art could be part of life. Living with painters, sculptures and musicians whilst on her BA, saw the creation of a travelling theatre, for example. This led to moving to Cornwall and living in another type of community, on a small wooden sailing boat in Falmouth during her MA degree.

At this point she discovered a world of natural colour and became interested in issues around the environment and climate change. In painting she uses a combination of natural pigments and traditional oil paints.  In dyes she uses local and seasonal plants and is concerned with sustainability and pollution in fashion.

Travelling to South East Asia to learn the art of dyeing with a tribe on the Mekong Delta, and picking up mud to paint with was freeing. It led to a wider exploration around the world in Australia, Spain, India, Laos, France and Morocco for the uses of pigments in these countries and their cultures, revealing stories through geology, history and people.

‘Art is not something that we make, it is what we do, it is who we are’

Francesca is outside as much as possible, enjoying painting an ever-changing skyline. Her current project began in April this year and is featured in this show. ‘The Colourfields’ is a 2-acre field looking over the UNESCO World Heritage site of Botallack, St Just. Francesca paints and runs courses as the joint owner of the project with her artist-partner.  It is a place for, ‘true creative freedom and expression’ where paintings are not made to please but are about the very pure joyous act of making.

The bow-top gypsy wagon, the vintage caravan, the compost loo and The Horsebox Gallery sit on the land as symbols of freedom and low impact living. They have become symbols for a way of life and deserve to be painted into stories of the landscape; they signify freedom of a way of being and of the spirit of travel. For how can we be creators of truly unique images, thoughts and ideas if we do not live differently?

Painting directly out in the environment forces us to stop, to notice our surroundings in a deeper way and then to respond accordingly. Francesca does not intend to create literal depictions; her work is rooted in ‘feeling’, in ‘instinct’ ‘observation’, and in ‘intuition’. Therefore she hopes that an abstracted and powerful image is created that evokes the feeling of that place, of that day and of that moment.  In The Colourfields, paintings can be left outside to weather and be worked on again and again.

To find a ‘great sense of connectedness’ with the natural world.

Painting a story, is about looking more deeply at the landscape, in folklore stories were ways of communicating, of entertaining and keeping culture alive, they were unifying. If a story can be found in a painting it goes on to live a life beyond the obvious initial form that we see upon first appearances. Places are rooted in stories, of past times whether real or imagined. As children, we listened to stories, which fueled our imagination, for example.

Years ago before we could read or write stories were passed down through generation, they could tell us something about the seasons, a group of people, animals etc.. They are powerful tools, which we need to fuel our imaginations and to teach us about things in this world and beyond it. Stories can also take us away from a reality into a realm of magic where everything is possible.

The pigments Francesca uses each have a unique story to tell about their place, their age and what they are made up of, and human and animal interactions. That pigment deposits can be up to 350 million years old is truly astonishing. By using pigments from the place that the painting is about, one has to gather, touch, feel its moistness and coarse or smooth textures and smell the earth. By painting with it, the place lives directly in the painting.

When exploring the wider areas, finding scenes that are off the beaten track is exciting, and Francesca enjoys the spirit of adventure this brings and sets off with a rucksack full of paint and loose canvas strapped to her back. A whole day can pass this way. Like action painting, although works begin by mapping out the scene, soon hands, feet and large loaded brushes are dynamically employed. Layers are built up like this until something shows through, revealing itself in a plethora of colour, brush marks and texture that hint at a horizon out to sea, for example.

About our being

Francesca is showing you her way of painting and her way of living. It’s a life where creativity is about the very nature of our being, both personal and collective. It is not one of total isolation, fear or disconnection. Francesca believes that in itself art unifies and connects on a deeper level alone than the ability to make an image. It is about considering how: art is not only something we do but more about who we truly are and how we choose to put this out there in the world, in the way that we live.

Selected Exhibitions

2020 Solo Show, The Crypt Gallery, St Ives

2020 Porthilly Gallery, Rock, Cornwall

2020 Open Studios Cornwall at Trewidden Gardens, Penzance, Cornwall

2020 Avalon Gallery, Marazion, Cornwall

2019 Winter Open Studios at Trewidden Gardens

2019 Art of Gathering, The Newcraftsman Gallery, St Ives, Cornwall

2019 Open Studios Cornwall at Trewidden Gardens, Penzance, Cornwall

2018 Winter Open Studios at Trewidden Gardens, Penzance, Cornwall

2018 Open Studios Cornwall at Trewidden Gardens, Penzance, Cornwall

2017 Parallax Art Fair, Chelsea, London

2017 Pairadeaza Feast, Broomhill Art Hotel, Devon

2017 Greenhill Arts, Dartmoor, Devon

2017 North Devon Arts, North Devon

2016 Westward Ho! and Bideford Art Society, Devon

2016 Soil Culture, Plymouth University, Devon

2015 Westward Ho! and Bideford Art Society, Devon

2015 Soil Culture, Exeter University, Exeter, Devon

2015 Soil Culture: Deep Roots, Falmouth Art Gallery, Falmouth, Cornwall

2015 Painting Together, White Moose Gallery, Devon

2014 Soil Culture, Falmouth University, Cornwall

2012 In the Dark Times, CMR Arts, Redruth, Cornwall

2012 MA Degree Show, Falmouth University, Cornwall

2012 A Cultivation Field, Symposium and Exhibition, with the Arts Council, The Keep, Reading

2011 The Colour Garden, Newlyn Art Gallery, Penzance, Cornwall

2010 In the Midst of Wonders, The Poly, Falmouth, Cornwall

2009 Ock Pop Tok, Living Crafts, Luang Prabang, Laos, Asia

2009 On Land, Fulham Palace Gallery, London

2009 The Slade BA Summer Shows, The Slade, UCL,London

2007 Interim show, Woburn Studios, UCL, London

2006 Eating Under Water, The Thomas a Becket, London

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