Born and raised in NYC, Francine Hsu Davis is deeply influenced by the urban landscapes that she has explored and inhabited. As a commuter most of her young adult life, she was equally captivated by the graffiti along the NYC subway line as she was the Greek/Roman wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Having attended programs at Cooper Union and F.I.T in high school, the continuous pull towards art led her to take elective studio art and art history courses while earning her undergraduate degree at Barnard College. In 2003, she received her Masters in Architecture from the Yale School of Architecture.
After over a decade-long career as an architect, Francine uprooted her life and moved to Taiwan, particularly drawn to the cityscapes of Taipei, because of her cultural roots there. While she loved and identified with being a New Yorker, she had this overarching need to find out about their heritage given her parents' need to assimilate to American culture 40 years ago. In Taiwan, she worked on her “100 Days of Taipei” project where she went out daily and sketched/painted the city (e.g. a building, a meal, people), getting to know the people through urban sketching. Memories of that experience have expanded into full bodies of work.
Francine previously painted full time in Oakland, CA; a few years in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and now creates out of her studio in Yonkers, NY. She has shown her work nationally, exhibiting at YSoA Gallery, Paolo Mejia Art Gallery, New York Academy of Art Auction hosted at Sotheby’s, Grayloft Gallery, The Laundry, ACCI Gallery, the online gallery ‘I Like Your Work’ and Space 776 Gallery. In 2019, she was awarded a residency at Vermont Studio Center.
Over the past few years, I have been documenting my Asian American experience using memories of architectural landscapes from my relocation and travels through Asia, but through the lens of my experience growing up in NYC. While interested in spatial and cultural experiences, I am further fascinated with how these experiences translate into memory.
As I travel the world, I sketch and photograph the details of the spaces that I explore, bringing those places back to my studio. There I investigate the textures and colors of the city in rich layers of oil paint. The urbanism that took such a significant role in my upbringing is expressed in my work as I play with the scale of the city, sometimes filling my canvas with structures and architectural shapes, and other times depicting an eroded patch of wall with a few blooms of moss and marks of graffiti. To me, rusted metal doors, fading paint on walls, eroded building parts, and overgrown greenery seem to tell the unwritten history of a place. By drawing these, I document a moment in time and celebrate the unsung stories of the city.
I work on both canvas and panel, each serving different purposes for me. Painting for me is about the materiality, the feeling of moving the paint on the specific surface. I love the
transparency that I can achieve on canvas by letting thinned out oil paint drip, or soak in, and the smooth feel of a brush running across. While working on wood panels allows me to scrape, scratch, or build up the layers. Pigment sticks allow me to make spirited marks like the ‘tagging’ I was so fascinated with as a child(but would never dream of doing as a child of immigrants).
Given the unique experiences of the pandemic, from isolation to over-saturated togetherness, monotony to disruption; my lean toward the building up of layers of paint has shifted to the peeling back of layers to exemplify the rawness of reality. My earlier work is architectural with heavily layered paintings while the latter work translates the gamut of experience during the pandemic into marks onto the canvas. I exploited the fibers of my brushes, exercised the verticality of motion like when a tradesman paints a wall, and drew abrupt lines. My gestures capture the instinctual reaction to an initial experience. With each series of paintings, I catalog a certain cultural encounter, whether it represents a specific time or place, a familiar color palette, or energy of movement.