Nonfiction

The Self Love Club

19 July 2016

Frances Cannon is an artist and student based in Melbourne. She paints, draws and also works with installation art and video. Her work is centred around her experience as a contemporary woman, exploring themes like the personal relationship to the body, mental health, gender, sex and sexuality. I met up with Frances on a chilly Melbourne afternoon in May to talk uni life, body positivity and Game of Thrones. Admittedly she was talking through the sniffles but we were both able to compare our uni woes – Frances was deep in the midst of assessment for her Honours in Fine Art at RMIT.

One of the first things I’m keen to talk about is something I’d come to know her best for – the growing movement of people getting pieces of her artwork commissioned as tattoo designs. Many of the designs feature a woman drawn in simple black ink, or the text ‘Self Love Club’. With matching tattoo optional for members, much of the interest in Frances’ artwork comes from the artist’s creation of this ‘Self Love Club’.

“You must always show yourself respect, love, forgiveness and understanding,” says Frances as she explains the club rules.

“You must show each other respect, love, forgiveness and understanding. You must be kind to your body and you must take care of your mental health.” She also tells me that the Self Love Club is for anyone who wants to join, as long as they are willing to work on their self love.

“If anyone does join,” the artist adds, “please send me photos or tag me in them on Instagram, as I am collecting the photos.”

One big theme in Frances’ work is presenting the female body in its natural and raw state. Some of the prints she’s sold in the past have featured women with the text “I am whole as I am” and “Perfection is a construct”. Though I press her on this body positivity theme, she is quick to reject this as a label for her work.

“It’s something that is important to me,” Frances tells me, “but I also do work about mental health, mental illness, femininity and a lot of other subjects, which are just as important. I don’t like being labeled as a ‘body positive artist’ because I am so much more than that.”

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Reluctant to pin herself down to one particular style or influence, Frances lists a number of mediums and techniques that she likes to work with, including ink, watercolour, pen and pencil. Branching from her own work, Frances also shares with me some of the other collaborations she has done in the past. Some of her favourite partnerships include jewellers, HV Jewellery, a patch maker at Home Run Press and with sustainable sanitary pad company, Tsuno. Looking towards the future, Frances also said that she would love to work with some Melbourne clothing designers, and also Lena Dunham, maybe with illustrating a book.

I first found Frances and her artwork on Instagram and she agrees that this is a convenient way for people to get involved in a community.

“Instagram is a great platform for artists to give people quick access to their work. I’ve used it to advertise my work and my exhibitions, and I really value [its] supportive arts community,” she says. Despite some of her work and photos having a focus on much of the female body, Frances says that she hasn’t found much difficulty with the Instagram Community Guidelines.

“I haven’t got time for that drama at the moment. Maybe later,” she laughs.

When it comes to giving advice to other young artists trying to get their work out there, Frances is adamant.

“Definitely have an online presence,” she says. “Whether it’s Instagram, Facebook or Tumblr – and stay active! Also apply to shows, exhibitions and group shows all the time. You will get rejected multiple times – I have, but it will be good practice.”

When we talk about her difficulties with getting started and facing criticism for her artwork, as well as from trolls online, Frances admits that it is difficult and as much as she tries not to let it get to her too much, it’s hard work trying to grow a thick skin. But for her, “it’s all part of being an artist”.

Frances opens up, admitting that she also struggles with being so open with herself and her body in her art.

“Sometimes it’s hard because at times I feel rotten about myself, just like everyone does,” she says. “It’s hard to open up when I’m feeling disheartened but I also think this is the most important time to open up, because it’s real and human to have moments of doubt and sadness.”

The last thing Frances and I discuss for the day is Game of Thrones and equally as important, its hotties. I share with her who my pick is for a night of Westerosi passion (Daario Naharis come at me), while for her it is harder to choose.

“I’d rather be Khaleesi’s lover, or Brienne’s. Or both.”  


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