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Philomena Francis

  • CountryUnited Kingdom
  • Born1969


Philomena Francis studied Fine Art Theory and Practice at Chelsea College of Art and Design and graduated in 2006 with a first class honours degree.

Her artwork explores the fluidity of identity, the complexity of the inner experience (sensory and internalised) and the outer appearance (the body and the context), to explore the essence of black female identity and self-image.

Using references from the ‘black vernacular’, where brown sugar alludes to black female sexuality, Philomena created the ‘Brown Sugar Series’. This work was based on interviews with five black women about their bodies. After selecting three women for the artwork, Philomena used a variety of unrefined brown sugar to create ‘sugar paintings’ of the women’s bodies in three wall hangings made of sackcloth and sugar cane.

Philomena’s later work expanded on her interest in sugar substances with the introduction of black treacle for the creation of lines (as in drawing), drips and the context (or territory) in which the work is created. The choice of medium is an important part of the work: the rough canvas used for the wall hangings in the ‘Brown Sugar Series’ was reminiscent of the sacks used to transport sugar processed in small mills during her father’s childhood in Jamaica. The sticky fluid nature of the black treacle is also reminiscent of the ‘liquid’ produced in the sugar refining process. These cultural references continue to intrigue her and black treacle has become the main medium through which she creates site-specific installations.

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