At Last

03/09/2022 - 22/09/2022

Ron Francis
Kate

2022

oil on canvas

76.00 x 122.00 cm

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At Last

NEW BEGINNINGS

“He is,” said Dr. Freud, “undeniably mad.” Freud was uncharacteristically discussing his latest patient. “But his
self-subscribed therapy is little short of genius. Thus, he is also arguably the sanest person amongst us.”
For reasons of both history and geography, Freud never actually met Ron Francis, but for motives that should become readily apparent, this summation would most likely be accurate. The first of these is the dark sense of humour that imbues Francis’ self-mockery, both as subject and witness, or arguably voyeur. The second is his sheer painterly skill that he applies to everything he illustrates. Then there is the third element, the nail-biting honesty that Francis applies to his own personal traumas and anxieties, as though he is saying, “fine, if I’m going to have a nervous breakdown, I’m ok with that, but I’m taking you with me.”

Just consider Me Looking At You At The Folk Festival. Francis ‘blames’ this picture on a recent break-up and the sense of being decrepit and aged and unattractive. But this is, at best, disingenuous. Painted in 2019, the artist appears staring from an impenetrable tower straight from a Stephen King novel - ironically less than a year later when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, almost everyone on the planet felt this unutterable isolation. Relationship-apocalypse may certainly be a part of it, but being impossibly cut-off from the world is really what Francis is depicting here. Two years later he painted Room With A View, with its solitary, bearded figure up to his ankles in grey, fetid waters, but the whispery light suggests that ascension is imminent.
Not so for the elderly lady in An Evening in Nightvale. Visited by angels either for ascension or revelation or redemption, they’re basically a bloody nuisance, standing there in front of her favourite TV show. Her posture says it all – get out of the damned way. And there indeed is the human condition in a nutshell; visited by the sublime, there are more immediate things of import. Heavenly spirits or the game show? The choice, sadly, is all too obvious.

When a small crowd does congregate it is perhaps for all the reasons we least want. A scene straight out of The X-Files, One Hour Parking depicts a gamut of scientists who have obviously made a discovery and, given how barren the surroundings are, one dreads what it may be. Perhaps a tiny glimmer of nature itself, a tiny weed, the last green thing on a barren man-made environ devoid of natural life?

Ron Francis has the terrifying ability to illustrate and articulate those elements of life that we all know exist, but which we also consciously deny, hide or even refute, even to ourselves. In what is arguably the most powerful image in this collection of extraordinary works, Home Fires stands out for the irrefutable truths it suggests. The dutiful housewife stands on the porch to greet her grandparents. However she looks as though to take even another step she will be flinging herself into an abyss. The house is pure David Lynch/Blue Velvet material – suburbia as a blissful haven, lawn trimmed to an inch of its life, the abode painted to perfection. What could possibly go awry?

Of course, the answer is everything and anything. The door is slightly ajar, and it is apparent that the interior is an inferno. But there is no smoke readily apparent thus, is the blaze purely emotional? If so, has the arrival of the elderly couple inspired this intense conflagration? Were they abusive to the housewife as a young child, thus leading to her evident sense of subjugation today? Or has something even worse occurred? Has she hacked her husband to death after finding him in bed with his secretary and set fire to their dream home accordingly?

This is called ‘Catastrophizing,’ a cognitive disorder in which a situation is overblown and/or considered bleak in the extreme, and Ron Francis is a master at it. But, thankfully, not always. A New Beginning (After Babylon) is Francis envisaging a far more ideal world, albeit one post environmental Armageddon. “An idea my son had that he was kind enough to let me use,” Francis notes. “Partly inspired by biblical prophecies of the fall of Babylon the Great and old adventure films like Jason and the Argonauts, this represents some time in the future when life is more simple, and gold and riches don’t mean anything anymore.”


Dr. Ashley Crawford, 2022

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