An Interview with Frank Finn

09 November 2018

Guildford-based artist, Frank Finn, explores the rhythmic tensions and restless nature of land and sea in his vibrant and abstract paintings. See his artwork in Frank Finn: A Sense of Time and Place for free, until 25 November 2018.

Having spent so much time living and working by the sea, would you say that this is your biggest source of inspiration? Why?

The sea and Dorset coastline are important influences in my painting. The restless nature of the interaction between the sea and land has formed a lasting fascination for me. I once took a night time boat trip from Poole along the coast, close to the cliffs. The boat’s searchlight picked out screaming seabirds nesting in the rock face, as the vessel struggled to deal with the choppy water. My paintings ‘Off Shore Night’ and ‘Off Shore Blue’ came directly from this experience. The Isle of Portland featured strongly in one of my previous exhibitions. The scarred limestone rock surfaces, stone beaches and restless sea dominated my thought in the approach to that show.


Frank Finn in the Art Fund Prize Gallery, alongside his painting Pink © The Lightbox

Now based in Guildford, away from the coastline, does this change the way you paint? Why?

Since moving to Surrey, my painting has become less concerned with place. More recent works have engaged with the challenges of shape, colour and surface quality. I have experimented with the relationship between structure and less defined forms, for example in ‘Blue Line’. In addition, I have become interested in the abstract representation of passing time, as seen in ‘Through the Night’ and ‘Daylight Coming’.

Your paintings are so vibrant and colourful. Do you have any preferred colour palettes and combinations and any that you would avoid?

Colour is an important consideration for me as my paintings are developed. The paintings are rarely passive or gentle, yet I hope they are seen to be positive and optimistic. I frequently and deliberately present myself with a strong base colour, to pose as a challenge to the development of the painting.


Frank Finn: A Sense of Time and Space © The Lightbox

How do you so successfully create such strong emotional metaphors through patterns and colours, as opposed to literal drawings of what’s in front of you?

One of the greatest challenges that faces all artists is that of maintaining a freshness and an immediacy in their work. It is all too easy for a painting to become tired and overworked. The challenge is to recognise the need to take brave steps to avoid this happening. Also, the need to know when a painting is not working and should be thrown away!

In my early days at art school, I became over-concerned to literally represent my ideas on canvas. It took me a while to realise that what really mattered to me was to achieve the sense of place, rather than a precise and detailed copy of the landscape. This has always seemed a far greater challenge. It is also very important to recognise and adapt to opportunities that emerge during the painting process.

Who is your favourite artist? What do you like about their work and does it transpire in your own?

I have been influenced by a number of artists, including the American painter Richard Diebenkorn for his amazing ability to respond through his paintings to the environment, and to change and adapt his style. Most importantly, I admire his surety of touch, and the rich surface quality of his work. The Cornish painter, Peter Lanyon’s painting has also influenced me. His responses to the landscape from above, and the freshness and vitality of his work, are hugely impressive.


Frank Finn: A Sense of Time and Space © The Lightbox

Of all the artworks you are exhibiting in the Art Fund Prize Gallery, which is your favourite?

The painting that marked a significant change in my work is ‘Blue Line’. It defined a movement away from narrative works, towards an abstract concern for the basic components of painting, form, shape and colour. This is reflected in the title.

Frank Finn: A Sense of Time and Place will be on display in the Art Fund Prize Gallery until 25 November 2018.

Meet Frank in the gallery on Sunday 11 or Sunday 18 November 2018, where the artist will be talking about his work and answering any questions you might have. All artworks in the exhibition are for sale.

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