A right screenplay of an interview.

Categorised as ART., ART.

Fran Copeman

Fran Copeman is a 25 year old painter and illustrator. She’s exhibited both locally in London and internationally, in Italy, Germany and Manchester. Her work, mixing hyper-realism and abstraction, often depicts disfigured and restricted bodies sunk in a thick painted landscape. I met her outside the John Snow in Soho for a pint.

How was the toilet?

Piss off. Actually, appropriate word. Why the fuck do we pay for water? It just goes straight through you.

What inspires you?

Shall we wait for this environmental services truck to pass?

A dustbin truck moves past the pavement edge where Tom and Fran are sitting.

Okay.

Well.

Generally I’m interesting in relationships and our relationships with each other. Obviously that gets much more complicated when you’re living in such a busy place, y’know?

No. What do you mean when you say relationships?

I mean the way I react with my external world, simple as. I had an early project, crudely called ‘The City’, I was reading Walter Benjamin and all that, but the idea of the city is still an important metaphor of me.

Do you work a lot in metaphors then?

Yeah definitely. I wouldn’t work in a completely representational way – I mean I do often use the human figure but that’s because it’s a form that I can identify with.

Is that identification important?

All I can say from my personal experiences of exhibiting is that I haven’t seen a single recent piece that has been ‘essentially’ conceptual. There’s always been a narrative or something which gives the audience the ability to see what the artist is doing without having to read a manual. Which is nice.

But your figures aren’t representational?

Well apart from the idea.

Is that idea frustration? It seems to be something you frequently work with.

When I left university I wanted a lot of things, but that all turned to shit really – a lot of people seem frustrated like that at the moment. I was also interested in frustrating the aesthetics of the piece to the point of distortion, and that got me looking at what makes something look distorted; ugly.

 

Why ugly?

It’s always a nicer challenge to make something that isn’t pretty.

So I am just supposed to accept it am I

Do you consider your work to be ugly?

Yes, it’s pretty ugly, but the image itself I find quite beautiful because of the detail created by the restriction.

What’s the process of getting that restriction?

Basically tying people up and getting them to break out of things.

Right.

Like with rope. Mainly on the face and hands.

Okay.

That’s where the most gesturing happens. Basically it started off as me imitating artists I admire, like Robert Longo who was active in the 80’s during the yuppie era. I did nick his style a bit but it’s mine now. (Laughs) History repeats itself anyways. We all forget things.

Fran drinks.

Fran Copeman

Is there a political element to your work?

I suppose the way you feel is based on a lifestyle created for you, which is politically created. Maybe if you lived on the top of a hill on Mars then you wouldn’t have that problem; you wouldn’t have inter…interwhatsitcalled?

Intercourse?

Yeah, that. None of that. Fran finishes her drink. I was watching a film and they were saying that women make up the majority of the population.

Your subjects are often women, or yourself.

People say they look androgynous. I really only use females because they’re normally the people I have at hand. I’d probably feel more on-edge getting a man to do it. Well, especially the type of man I’d be looking for…getting him to go crazy in front of the camera like that. At the moment it’s just androgynous me. I think it looks strong though. A bang is heard from across the road.
I’d like to just stand up and punch someone in the face. That would make me feel strong.

Why don’t you?

What?

Punch someone in the face.

Could do.

Are your paintings about people not being able to do that?

Yes, well, no. It’s the fine line; a specific place where someone has seen their restriction and is now at the point where they’re trying to break out of it. My hope is that they’re at a point of rebellion.

What are they rebelling against?

I don’t know, it’ll sound convoluted. I guess their limited channels of expression. Here, look, there’s a big environmental services truck coming. The same dustbin truck from earlier slowly drives past.

How do you feel about trucks?

That wheel is as big as my body. The sound of an engine is heard, low and guttural.

Words by Thomas McMullan.

Find out more about Fran and her work on her blog.

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