I STILL LOVE - review

Review by Steph Hurst for Spoonfed:

I Still Love is Franko B’s first solo exhibition in London for seven years. His latest body of work at The Nunnery Gallery is a series of larger-than-life images stitched onto canvas with yarn. The Nunnery (actually a former nunnery, with the architectural interior to prove it) lives down a long alleyway of artist studios, lit by a constellation of dangling fluorescent lights. This bright, high-ceilinged space provides a good home for the, ahem, well-hung embroidered canvases.

The front gallery is quiet and blanched with a muted palette of bone-coloured cotton on unprimed canvas. The aesthetic is minimal and features portraits of torture alongside a bird and a blank canvas. The grouping of these images becomes an overture for the rest of the show.

The nave gallery introduces playful, erotic imagery. Twinkies kissing. A robin perched on a branch. A double hanging (as seen in the front gallery) is re-appropriated in bright red Egyptian cotton, accentuating the colour contrast. There is language in the sharp elbows of the bold contour lines—in the curves of two penises kissing. They almost seem to be moving.

The images are both appropriated and personal. “I don’t want to work with images that repulse me,” Franko says, “but with images that I can’t forget – that are ingrained in my memory.” I have seen some of this work in his studio – subjects projected onto canvas with an old-school overhead projector. He condenses the original images to produce flat, stylised renderings. Grouped with the occasional flower or bird, war and brutality comprise the majority of the images. Arranged together in one place, they seem to engage in conversation.

The back gallery is the noisiest – floor to ceiling with 22 square canvases including several military portraits, a triptych of Tom (and the rambling scar on his abdomen), a couple of hangings (the thick red noose and the negative space), and my personal favourite, the spectacular sprawling of barbed wire.

In a recent documentary of I Still Love at PAC Milan, Franko says, “I’m an artist who works with single images. When I choose which image to work with, I choose one that has touched me or that keeps my attention. This might be two cute boys kissing and I feel some emotion towards it, or a child who has just escaped and survived an attack on his school, which has killed most of the other children. To me, it has the same effect.” The results are eye-catching (and highly collectible).

Franko’s distinctive branding – where classical meets queer – appears in the exclusive use of red and white. He’s been tagged a New Romantic, and I Still Love doesn’t deviate, but evolves the artist’s multidisciplinary approach… in other words, it works.

Franko B – I Still Love is at the Nunnery until 5th June 2011.

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