Julia Francis is inviting you to create magic images that aren’t just drawings, yet not quite sculptures, but instead fluid movement frozen in the look and feel of solid lace in her upcoming workshops.
She hopes to start her classes early in the new year, and channel them not only towards learning the ABC of wire modelling, but also to brainstorm for exploring the possibilities of this technique that effortlessly bridges doodles and plasticity. She would also like to hold life drawings with a twist – a metallic twist – inviting local artists to experiment with her technique.
Manipulating chicken wire, Julia creates ethereal crafts that, like an apparition, are there and aren’t, and commit dynamism and drama to the onlookers’ imagination, drawn to colour inside or outside the lines with their own minds or just to follow the play of shadows on a background wall.
Life drawing has been her passion since college years, when she took it up as an elective to complement her photography specialisation, and thereafter she’s dedicated most of her artistic research to the human figure, and its compass of movement. She tried to reproduce in clay, papier-mâché and wire the most daring poses, stills from a video that in real life couldn’t be held still without losing balance, and if you blink are gone, so that it is down to her to freeze their ephemeral impression in a durable sculpture.
Art collectors were able to admire her work at an exhibition held at the Nook, at the Arts & Crafts Gallery last October, where Julia’s recent work was for sale. If you’ve missed it, don’t despair: she is a regular of the Ocean Village Sunday Artisans’ Market, or you can commission her personalised artwork through her Facebook page Zenspired Sculptures. There, you can also admire some of her earlier, larger scale work, realised with 7mm-diameter wire, a six-foot tall sculpture weatherproofed for the great outdoors.
I wanted it covid-related, but in a positive way.
“That was hard toil, physically speaking, as I had to use bolt cutters, pliers and welders to make the sculpture, which I covered in PVA glue, my go-to solution for solidity, durability and waterproofing, and then layered with car paint,” Julia says.
She doesn’t usually need pliers for her smaller work, the one you can hang on your wall like a Chinese shadow, or a Japanese calligraphy sample, to which Julia’s minimalist style is mostly inspired: in fact, she fashions the chicken wire with her bare hands.
“Yes, you can prick your fingertips in the process, but with caution that doesn’t happen very often, and I am used to it. That’s why my prospective classes aren’t suitable for children, alas, because handling wire can be hazardous for them, but with some commonsense and basic safety rules, it is perfectly safe for adults,” Julia warns.
“I buy chicken wire that comes in rolls, cut out a length and I handle it one sheet at the time. I can visualise in those squares or rhombuses the figure I am about to fashion out of it, so I start from the waistline, which I pinch in, and work limbs, heads and pose outwards from there, then I just remove the excess with scissors.”
Ideas come from her imagination, and she’s drawn to flamenco dancers and mermaids for the multiplicity of poses they can strike. Flamenco dresses look like roses or carnations, and the interest for reproducing their floral flamboyancy with a few outlines ties her current work with her earlier ones still displayed in London. This past work consisted of three-dimensional fashion models parading daffodil and iris inspired gowns, where the wire is the skeleton, covered with painted papier-mâché.
Her latest exhibition was titled Fire and Water, with the flames of flamenco and the algid aloofness of sirens, often painted in sea green and sat on a suitable stone pedestal. Julia also entered a freestanding sculpture titled Three Wise Monkeys in the International Art Exhibition last November. If it didn’t catch the adjudicator’s attention, it captured the imagination of visitors, with its elongated élan and its words of wisdom.
“I mused about something different for this one. I wanted it covid-related, but in a positive way. Those figures are described as ‘monkeys’, because in their flowing postures I loosely reprise the ‘see no evil hear no evil, speak no evil’, topic. Instead of lace or paint, I went for newspaper cuttings to decorate them. So I scoured the Sur in English for uplifting words, and as you can guess it was an arduous search, then I cut them out to paste them individually all over the wire before slathering PVA glue on it.”
Well, the effect is that the sculpture commands more than a passing glance: the first impression is graceful and liberating with its brass tones, but if one spends time with it, one can appreciate its mindfulness. This is a piece that will yield good vibes for a long time, and every day will be a new discovery.
Julia often accompanies her artwork with poems inspired by the work itself, written in haiku format (5-7-5 syllables), essential in its nature, to hint rather than describe. “I write in English and then translate in Spanish. Because Spanish words are usually longer, I have to strip the poem to the bare essentials even more, and I end up loving that translation even more than the original.”
Keep up to date with Julia’s work by following Zenspired Sculptures on Facebook.