By CLARE GEMIMA September 27, 2023
In the captivating narrative of Francine Tint's artistic journey, the quick witted, refreshingly honest and eccentric painter initially thrived as a costume designer and fashion stylist for luminaries like David Bowie, and basked in the glamour of the fashion world's spotlight for a nice while. Her path took an intriguing turn as she transitioned into painting, driven by an unwavering desire to wield the brush and manifest her artistic dreams. She has since never looked back.
In conversation with Clare Gemima about her most recent New York solo The Sky is a Mirror now showing at Upsilon Gallery, the 80 (going on 21) year old Tint unravels the evolution of her artistry, her background in fashion, and how the two have coalesced over the course of her career. At the core of Tint's passions lays a commitment to preserving art within the hallowed walls of museums, and an unwavering dedication to not only creating, but sharing her work critically. To this day, Francine Tint has established a long spanning position in the industry as an indelible presence in the ever-evolving landscape of female contemporary artists in America.
Clare Gemima: Can you share more about your journey from being a successful costume designer and fashion stylist for prominent figures like David Bowie and Ridley Scott to transitioning into a painter? What prompted this shift in your career?
Francine Tint: I always desired painting, but I needed to support myself and that was the best and most exciting way that I could think of doing it. I was very good and successful at it, and I of course learned a lot. Everything that I learned in my life brought it back to painting, or even brought it back into my paintings. It sort of happened organically, it was a shift. I've looked at painters like Rembrandt, and they all knew costumes when you think of it - they all knew velvets, and zippers… you know, a lot of my work, even before these collages, have a lot to do with layers, veils and transparencies that I could relate to costume design. It all went in the same pot.
Clare Gemima: You've mentioned being part of the permanent collection of over 28 museums. What does it mean to you to have your work preserved in these institutions, and do you have any personal favorites among these collections?
Francine Tint: I like The Neuberger Museum of Art, and I was actually in a group show with some prominent people there like Milton Resnick, which unfortunately closed because of COVID, but they have a very good collection there too. I also had a show that included Alex Katz. His work was in one room, and mine was across from his. I mean, I was just so delighted. My goal is to be a good painter and to be collected by museums. Gerhard Richter says that, but of course he makes tons of money. That is not at all my prerogative - never has been, never will. I love being hung in a person's home, but it is much more important to have my works collected by museums.
Clare Gemima: You resist adhering to a specific artistic style, yet your work has received extensive local and international exhibition exposure. What guidance would you offer to emerging artists who are just starting their careers who may believe that establishing a distinctive signature style is key to achieving success, securing gallery representation, or gaining recognition in the art industry?
Francine Tint: Well, the people who work with me certainly learn a lot. I'm afraid that some of the younger people are merely interested in the market. It's become a marketable art world. They should not even have to worry about a signature style at such an early phase. I find that a lot of young people just jump into it and think about the sales, but I would tell them to just follow their bliss and to keep painting. Continue to look at great art, and maintain their studio. I mean, I think it can be as simple as that sometimes.
Clare Gemima: Space Without Place, 2023, struck a different chord, and invited some insight into the range of colors you use in your studio. As one of the more vibrant paintings, in its shades of pinks, blues and limes, I am interested in what influenced these specific color choices?
Francine Tint: Well that's easy. I think it has to do with Pompeii and Renaissance paintings, and the historic artists coming out of those periods. I was trying to think about the work as a fresco painting. It has a lot of washes across its 90 inch width, which were all created through wet on wet (on wet) layering. Being in Italy and in Florence just recently made me so acutely aware of how much Space without Place, 2023 relates to this technique.
Clare Gemima: Could you explain the stand out work in the show, Goya, 2023?
Francine Tint: Goya is just black and white. I mean, I didn't even use a single color! The collaged painting is very tactile in contrast to the other works in the exhibition. It has brush strokes, and has an abundance of silk-screen mesh that’s crunched all around its canvas and moulded to its own unique shape. I read something a long time ago that Matisse said, “A colorist makes his presence known even in a simple charcoal drawing”
Clare Gemima: Another painting, The Cruel Share of Memory, 2023, makes me wonder if there is an attempt to emulate a brush stroke effect with the silk screen mesh you are collaging with.
When did the concept of incorporating soft materials to introduce a three-dimensional aspect to your paintings initially come to you?
Francine Tint: I created this work right after my show at the National Arts Club, so nine months later. All of that time felt symbolic of giving birth - not even a year to prepare for something so challenging. I think because of this, every technique I wanted to further explore can be found in this painting. There's drips, which I've always been known for, and then there are the folds, brush strokes and washes. If you notice it's got drips on top that I let seep through to the bottom of the canvas. I decided against layering or covering these up.
Clare Gemima: I'm curious about your thoughts in regards to the perceptive review of your show by Robert C. Morgan, particularly in his statement:
“Francine Tint knows painting on all sides, even as her chosen direction has been abstract for decades…Her method of painting does not emphasize the rigorous strokes used by the members of AE (Abstract Expressionism)….”
Francine Tint: I was constantly being persuaded to fit into a type of category, and I kept getting nailed for that over and over again. I’ve certainly been acknowledged enough, but he brought that particular argument back into the light in a whole new way. To note that I am a colorist, which also gets lost in translation because of a need to catergorize, amongst many other aspects of his visual analysis, makes Robert’s review of The Sky Is A Mirror a very poignant one.
Clare Gemima: Are there any upcoming exhibitions or projects that you're excited about working towards now?
Francine Tint: Well, I am busy with my concurrent Boston show up right now, Listening to the Sublime, which also just recently opened, and I have a group show in Hudson coming up in October that has to do with Golden Materials, because I use so many of their amazing paints.
The Sky Is A Mirror will run from September 7 - October 14, 2023. For more information about Upsilon Gallery, please visit: https://www.upsilongallery.com/ WM
Clare Gemima contributes art criticism to The Brooklyn Rail, Contemporary HUM, and other international art journals with a particular focus on immigrant painters and sculptors who have moved their practice to New York. She is currently a visual artist mentee in the New York Foundation of Art’s 2023 Immigrant mentorship program.view all articles from this author