Diana FRANCIS, artist and painter, has been living in Asia for close to 20 years and makes everything about this continent her main inspiration to her artworks. She talks of Asia as colourful and vibrant and how coming here as a European (Diana hails from London in the UK) had all her senses "woken up all over again".
Her art communicates her sentiment on the vivid contrasts between Asia and Europe. From Art fans' point of view, this successful interpretation of Asian themes by a European has earned Diana a status that many artists can only dream of. She has been commissioned by several private individuals as well as large multi-national corporations, and has recently been named the artist in residence by the prestigious British Club in Singapore.
Read more about this former Advertising Executive, who interestingly likens commissioned artworks to advertising campaigns. Having lived in Singapore in the last 11 years, Diana also shares some quick and quite informative facts about the city state. Plus learn why she thinks these are exciting times for the Singapore art scene.
FULL NAME: Diana Claire Francis
PLACE OF BIRTH: London, UK
CITY OF RESIDENCE: Singapore
FAMILY: 2 daughters - 10 and 9 years.
EDUCATION: Croydon College, London. Wimbledon School Of Art, London
How much has the Singapore art scene changed in the last 10 years?
Just as Singapore in the past couple of years is opening up to becoming a global hub with the F1 race and the arrival of casinos, this global 'outlook' is also starting to affect the art scene here. Art is now taking more risks, and maturing in Singapore - Exciting times!
As a London native, what made you COME to Asia? What made you STAY?
Initially I came to Singapore as I had family here. My brother's an interior designer/architect and was based in Singapore and Malaysia for many years. I worked in London initially as a graphic designer/art-director, and came to Singapore to get experience in this field as an intern during my summers at college, and I loved it!
After a year or so working in London at The Design House, I wanted to come back to Asia, and was offered a job at McCann-Erickson. McCann transferred me to Hong Kong for 4 years and after this I was re-located to Malaysia for a few years as their regional creative manager. The experience of travelling throughout Asia - Pakistan, Korea, Vietnam etc, I got to experience different cultures, peoples and its places and was amazed. Gave me the inspiration and foundation of what I love to paint today. I moved to Singapore after a few years when I'd met my husband on business in Singapore.
I'd always painted in my spare time, but after my children were born and I'd decided to leave advertising, I finally had the time to pursue my art career again more intensely, and it's just taken off from there...
Your works are predominantly Asian in theme but is said to have been "interpreted through the eyes of a foreigner", what does that mean?
I think as foreigners arriving in Asia for the first time, we see Asia with a very fresh perspective. The people; the buildings like the Singapore shophouses--It's like your senses are woken up all over again. Just as Europe can seem rather grey, Asia in contrast, is very colourful and vibrant. It's this contrast that I try to communicate through my art.
Most of my work is playing with intense colour, but the composition of my pieces, and my experimentation with the sizes of my canvas' which sometimes I bolt together to give and create irregular shapes as I like to keep my work contemporary.
What particular art technique would you like people to see in your paintings?
Hmmm, that's difficult, as I don't think my work really 'fits' into a specific genre of painting. “Representational" perhaps since I work on people, architecture or nature as subjects. “Pop" I think comes closest to describing my pieces in terms of colour - bright, bright and brighter the better. Yet sometimes my composition and execution verges on the “abstract" and “sculptural"? too - I paint with a knife predominantly and since I work in oils, I cut into the paint with my knife and also create shape this way.
With your commissioned artworks, what is the level of relationship you maintain with your client in terms of artistic contribution?
I like to think that people who commission my work trust in my artistic interpretation of my subjects. Some of my clients, my shophouse series for example, have a specific street or place in Singapore that's special to them. I enjoy listening to their story, and interpreting from this point onwards. Logistics, like the size of the canvas, may dictate the end shape, not so much the artistic contribution.
A client may have a size constraint, so need my composition to work within set size. Occasionally a client may have a huge aversion to a certain colour, so this I don't mind taking into account.
How has your advertising background contribute to the success of your Art business?
I think my advertising background has helped me communicate to people what I love about Asia, visually speaking, or how to tell the story as it were. My graphic design background certainly has helped in terms of the compositions of my pieces. Plus the discipline in advertising certainly helps me work to a deadline that a commission requires! Working on an exhibition theme is somewhat like working on an ad campaign to an extent - Just in terms of synergising an idea. So contributing to the success of the art? Yes in the essence that people can get what I'm saying in my art, and that my art speaks to them.
In your most uninhibited opinion, what do you think draws Westerners to settle down in Asia?
Different reasons but from my experience it was a sensory overload coming to Asia, which from a creative perspective was priceless. But creativity aside, Asia offers an amazing lifestyle to people coming from the West. Great weather year long, unbelievable food. It's economically booming. You can enjoy an amazing lifestyle that's affordable (in comparison to the West), and if you have a family, what better, safe environment to bring your children up in? Reason enough to stay.
Quick Questions about Singapore:
Does it have to be one!? Spring Court for Dim Sum in Chinatown - It's a family establishment since the 1920's, steeped in history and the most amazing Char Siew in Singapore; Fine dining has to be IndoChine on Boat Quay for the view over the river to Boat Quay.
Has to be Raffle's for its history (I'm a hopeless romantic)!
Favourite Museum or Gallery?
Singapore Art Museum (SAM), and Opera Gallery for art. The Opera Gallery is a museum in itself, with some amazing old masters mixed with the modern and great local artists.
Where do you shop?
For clothes: Project Blood Bros, great affordable basics; For food: Wet market and Vivomart, as offer good selection of Fairtrade, organic produce.
What is the best thing to do to unwind in Singapore?
For me is to take long walks as close to nature as possible. MacRitchie Reservoir, Botanic Gardens? I'm a morning person which helps, as there's a window before 8am, when the temperature is just perfect and you can still see the dew on the grass.
Block 43, #03-76 Jalan Merah Saga, Singapore 278115