Francis West's Voyages brings mythology of Scottish coasts to London in Piper Gallery show

By Ben Miller | 11 September 2012
An image of a red figurative painting with small duck-like pink figures within the work
Francis West, Le Pecheur (2006). Oil on canvas© Courtesy Francis West / Piper Gallery
Exhibition Preview: Francis West – Voyages, The Piper Gallery, London, until October 5 2012

The Piper Gallery is dedicated to contemporary artists with a career spanning more than 40 years. It’s been 76 since Francis West was born in a remote fishing community in Scotland, where he grew up before heading for National Service and a spell at the Chelsea School of Art.

A photo of an artist in a suit holding a drink while chatting with a man in an art gallery
Artists Neil Stokoe (left) and Mark Wallinger take a look at the show© Courtesy Piers Allardyce
Those formative years on the Moray Firth, where he would often work on his father’s fishing boats, have done much to influence his mythology-tinged works: West’s Tempestas, begun in 1987, sees a turbulent wind swirling through the caves ahead of a waiting ship, part of West’s Palimpsests series of large-scale drawings in which he over-worked several of his earlier expressionist pieces to create a more disrupted feel.

West has sought risks during his career, creating works channelling the adrenalin of fishing atop a rough sea, or heading to America, during two working trips after he moved to Paris during the 1990s, for a set he calls the “bandit series”.

Figurative forms abound in his drawings, pastels and paintings - often in states of metamorphosis - and imagined realms of forests and caverns, populated by “grotesque” flora and fauna, flow around hybrid human-animals in a style which has drawn comparisons to Goya and Bacon.

“It’s exciting to be able to present a lesser-known artist whose recent work is energetic and fresh,” says Megan Piper, the Founder and Director of the gallery holding its first solo show since it opened in June.

“It gives us the opportunity to explore voyages – a theme pertinent to the ethos of the gallery. Francis’ maturity and experience means that he is able to explore the theme in a way a young artist would never be able to.”


More pictures:

An image of an earth-coloured figurative painting of various figures against a red drop
Arizona Mon Amour (2008). Oil on canvas© Courtesy Francis West / Piper Gallery
An image of a large swirling canvas showing a ship on a turbulent blue sea framed in black
Boat of a Thousand Years (2010). Oil on canvas© Courtesy Francis West / Piper Gallery
A photo of a figurative painting of various birds and figures under mountains in clay red
Le Desert (2008). Oil on canvas© Courtesy Francis West / Piper Gallery
An image of a figurative painting showing a swirl of grey, black, light blue, red and yellow
Le matelot (2007). Oil on canvas© Courtesy Francis West / Piper Gallery
An image of a figurative painting showing three pink figures standing against a blue sea
Mediterranee IV, Birth of Venus (2009). Oil on canvas© Courtesy Francis West / Piper Gallery
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