Artist / Events and Exhibitions Coordinator at Royal College of Nursing Library and Archive
Frank’s works are an exploration of architecture and space; more specifically, how the buildings that surround us shape us and determine how we interact with each other.
Hear Frank speak about her work in our event Unlearning to Draw that took place in August 2020.
Frank Reed was born in Swindon, grew up in the East Midlands and is now based in London. Most of her family live in North Wales. “This part of the UK has a special place in my heart! I spent most of my school holidays and long weekends in Wales and it’s definitely a second home for me and possibly an influence for the natural world bursting into my work!”.
Can you say a bit about your day job and how you discovered the Arts & Health Hub?
I live in London and my day job is at the Royal College of Nursing Library and Archive. My official title is Events and Exhibitions Coordinator. Which basically means I do my best to engage people with nursing and nursing history, through exhibition displays and public events. I’m a museums nerd at heart and think accessibility to culture and arts, and understanding our heritage, are all essential parts of leading a happy healthy life.
It was through my work at the RCN that I met the Free Space Project team, and hence found out about the Arts & Health Hub. Having my ‘museum-hat’ on most of the time means that my role as an artist can take a back seat. I’ve always needed a network of art practitioners around me, to keep me creating and energised about making work. The Hub has definitely helped with that! Seeing how others work and hearing about their artistic processes makes my reflections on my own work much stronger.
What is your background in the arts — where did your practice begin and how has it evolved?
When I left school I began an art foundation course at Loughborough University, not far from where I grew up. It was great year for experimenting and trying out new methods. I have always been drawn towards line and composition. At the time I was making drawings with fine liner pens and rulers. My work was very concentrated and detailed, but also very restrained and limited in some ways. After that, I did an undergraduate in Fine Art and Art History at Plymouth University and I loved it. Especially being by the sea. It felt like a very creative place and the city itself has a fascinating history.
I began exploring print making, collage and a bit of model making and video. But I was always interested in process and learning new techniques, rather than resolving work. While I played around in my art practice, I started getting more interested in art history, writing about art and how we engage with art and art making. From there began my path to the museums sector, which is where I am for my day job now. This was important for my own art practice as I began to think more about how and why we make art, and how museums and the arts sector have a responsibility to make art and art-making available to everyone.
What brought you to drawing as your chosen medium?
I enjoy working with line and mark making. Drawing feels more comfortable to me than any other process. More so than navigating paint for example, which I’m learning more about as I go. I also was lucky to have a brilliant tutor at Loughborough, who is committed to drawing as a process. Over the past 12 years or so he’s become a friend and a mentor, and continues to promote drawing as a way to improve confidence, and just explore.
When I look at other artists’ work, what catches my attention the most are their preparatory sketches or sketchbook work. Rachel Whiteread for example has always been an influence for me. She makes large scale sculptures that are casts of spaces, like houses or underneath chairs. But it’s her drawings that I love the most. They’re delicate and exploratory, sometimes with a complex mix of materials. Looking at other artists’ drawings helped me see that art doesn’t have to be the big oil paintings in national galleries or sculptures that take up rooms. There’s value and resolve in the process of making a simple line.
The layers in your work add an extra three dimensional element to the work, hiding and revealing parts of each piece. How did you come to work in this way?
Squares and rectangles always find their way into my work, which comes from a preoccupation with doors and windows. I like playing with composition and changing things around. I can do this when I’m working with windows, gaps or openings. I’m also very indecisive. By cutting drawings up, layering them and swapping out sections with other drawings, they can constantly evolve. And I don’t have to decide when the piece is finished! It takes the pressure off and brings the focus back towards the process, rather than the end product.
In recent years, spaces you can see through in my work have become increasingly about gaps. I have a terrible memory, which can cause issues day to day. It also means there are many gaps in what I understand about the past and how I understand myself. I think the layering and cutting out spaces in my work is a way of addressing those gaps. I can then choose to fill them with imagined views, or I can leave them be, as empty space.
In some of your works it appears that the natural world seems to be taking over urban architectural spaces — can you say a bit about the meaning behind those works?
This also goes back to my preoccupation with doors and windows, lines and edges. I like the potential to imagine the spaces beyond those frames. More often than not, my imagined space is lush, green and organic. It’s a perfect contrast to the sharp edges of the window frame or the order of brickwork on a building. These more organic features help me step away from getting bogged down in the detail of architecture.
For me, travel is an important inspiration for my practice. Travel could mean going to a completely new country, or it could simply be a walk or a visit to somewhere local. At the moment, like everyone else, I’m doing my best to find green spaces I can safely walk in near my home and thinking about trips to North Wales where my family are from. Combining the harsher city structures that surround me with softer, brighter organic shapes feels positive and playful.
What direction do you see your practice heading in and are there any future goals that you’re working towards (exhibition etc)?
I’ve been developing a few bigger pieces at the moment, which has been very time consuming! I find working small much easier, particularly because my work is very detailed. Working on a larger scale means I have a new challenge in managing that detail, and in finding new ways to scale up on layering and cut outs. It’s been an interesting process. I’ve always thought of my work as quite illustrative and have always been interested in how image and text work together. So I’d like to develop the storytelling aspect of my work a bit more too.
Getting back into exhibiting work is definitely a long term goal. In the past, exhibition and display has been a really important tool for thinking about my work. I’m interested in the practice of curating too, and how we display art and objects. An exhibition would definitely be a good development for my more recent works.