Artist Frances Aviva Blane: ‘Joyful colours don’t always make for joyful paintings’

Photo: Lucid Plane

Photo: Lucid Plane - Credit: Archant

Bleak undertones are ever apparent in the artist’s new book, Nothing, writes Alsion Oldham.

“Just because things are in bright joyful colours doesn’t mean they are bright joyful paintings,” says Frances Aviva Blane in discussing the small works beautifully presented in her new artist’s book Nothing. This quote is among those included in a perceptive essay by biographer Diana Souhami while others are juxtaposed with the intense, disconcerting paintings and drawings, accentuating aspects of them.

“I always take control”, which faces the acrylic and charcoal abstract Red, seems to sharpen the hold that the line has over the painted form. “I love pink. Pink is my favourite colour”, opposite Africa Head, draws attention to the contrast between the bubblegum-like background and bleak eyes and mouth. When Souhami remarked that a head depicted in charcoal against acrylic orangey reds in My Summer appeared to be floating in blood, the artist nonchalantly said “Actually that’s me dead.”

Blane lives in Highgate and is known for big abstracts in the Expressionist tradition, often two metres square, but the twelve oil paintings on linen in Nothing are 60cm square or less. “Because her work is gestural, these small-scale pieces, where every mark is apparent, are more demanding and as with her drawings take her longer to execute than the large paintings,” writes Souhami.

For Blane, the marks are “more contained, expressing compressed energy”. She describes herself as in awe of paint and what she can and cannot do with it, whether it’s the glow of oils or tendency of acrylic to fall apart “like a dissolved personality”. With both she expresses the breakdown of self.

The oils, all made this year, have never been shown but some of the six works on paper in Nothing were in the Deconstruct exhibition in 2014 at De Queeste Art Gallery in Belgium alongside Francis Bacon and Louise Bourgeois. This year De Queeste paired her work with Frank Auerbach’s. What she says of her own paintings and drawings, “They are how I live, how I think”, seems equally true of his.

The title of this singular book, designed by Joe Corr, comes from another of her refreshingly direct observations: “My work doesn’t come from being inspired. My work comes from nothing. And that’s what it’s about, making something of nothing.”

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Nothing (Starmount Publishing £50) is available from For more information, visit