Do you know that feeling when you look over the side of a balcony and have a sudden urge to jump but something pulls you back? It's a common phenomenon that Bristol mixed-media artist Ian Francis addresses in his new series of paintings.
But instead of teetering on the edge of a building, The Call of the Void explores the issue of environmental collapse and people's delicate relationship with nature.
"The phrase 'call of the void' refers to the strange sensation when you’re at a great height and gravity seems to begin pulling you at an oblique angle towards the edge, despite having no suicidal intentions," explains Francis. "In this show, I was interested in exploring the strained relationship between the modern world we’ve created and its animal inhabitants, at a time where we seem to be at the edge of an ecological tipping point. I wanted to make paintings of dystopian dreamscapes, with people interacting with strange, reconstructed forms of nature."
Inspired by the visual style of modern computer games, his paintings often depict violent, urban scenes and contain both figurative and abstract elements rendered in acrylic and oil, charcoal, and ink. They have been described as "wonderfully serious and quiet at the same time".
"I’ve always loved technology, futurism and the world we’ve created for ourselves, but it’s hard not to be horrified by the impact our way of life is having on the planet," Francis adds. "Even nominally wild animals now exist within the boundaries of a human-constructed world they didn’t evolve for. Turning back the clock seems impossible, so the only real hope appears to be relying on technological solutions to our problems, but even if that’s in some way successful it feels like the result will be a strange and different world.
"I was drawn to the idea of creating images of constructed animals by layering together different elements, including skeletons, polygonal structures, empty outlines and garish colours. I wanted to create a sense of facsimile, an idea of a beautiful natural thing that has been lost and replaced with something with a similar form, but distinctly different."