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Fran Callen Artist Bio 2020

Fran is driven to create by the urge to document her immediate surroundings, narratives suggested in the details of moments. Fran’s recent drawing-based work documents our relationship with domestic spaces and their impact on the natural world. Motherhood provides an ambient background.


After her first solo exhibition at Greenhill Galleries in 2000 Fran won the 2003 Ruth Tuck Scholarship to Santa Repararta International School of Art, Florence, returning to complete Honours in Visual Arts at SASA in 2005. Her energetic live drawings of social interaction and performance led her to paint Divinyls front woman Chrissy Amphlett in her New York recording studio early 2011.  This portrait was shortlisted in the 2012 Portia Geach Memorial Art Prize. 


After 2012 motherhood transformed Fran’s practise. The kitchen tabletop became - out of motherhood-necessity - her studio, domestic routines marking evolving palimpsests across unstretched canvas ‘tablecloths’. ‘Tabletop 1’ won the Fleurieu Food & Wine Art Prize 2016. Fran’s Limber Up mentorship with Christopher Orchard, and SALA 2016 residency at the Adelaide Central Markets led to representation with BMG, with solo exhibitions in 2017 and - supported by the Ed Tweddell Studio Residency at Central Studios - in SALA 2018. Her botanical inspired Guildhouse ‘Collections Project’ work in 2017 was exhibited in SALA and FRANFest. Fran was curated by Gabi Lane into ‘Good Mother’ at Central School of Art, SALA 2018, this artwork shortlisted in STILL National Still Life Award 2019, and the Adelaide Perry Prize for Drawing 2020.


Recent work responds to her 2019 Country Arts residency to Grindell’s Hut in Adnyamathanha country, exhibited at Yarta Purtli Cultural Centre, Port Augusta 2020, and Collective Haunt in SALA. Fran’s work is regularly shortlisted in national art prizes, recently The Paul Guest Prize for Drawing 2019, Ravenswood Australian Women’s Art Prize 2019, Pro Hart Outback Art Prize, and Adelaide Parklands Art Prize 2020.


Fran has taught drawing and painting in tertiary institutions for thirteen years, including South Australian School of Art, Tauondi Aboriginal College and currently teaches at Adelaide College of the Arts. She has also worked as a community artist across Australia and overseas, specialising in collaborative murals with community groups. She currently works from her studio at Collective Haunt Inc. in Adelaide.

Artist Statement:Tabletop Series 2016               

Within these drawings are explorations of motherhood, domesticity and the struggle to find the ultimate art/mother balance. I have striven for a process that compliments motherhood. I incorporate primarily non-toxic materials in short snatches of time. My children participate in the process. Mothering has enriched and transformed my practise. In the making, un-stretched canvas is draped tablecloth-like, the kitchen table the easel. Drawings become records of domestic rituals. Objects are sketched as they pass across the surface during routines of family life. Wine, tea, and childrens spills all become mark-making mediums. Perspective warps as I move around the canvas and shadows change with time. Drawings evolve to become a layering of moments, a record of time passing. The narrative of the artworks’ own history is revealed within its layers. My artwork remains about human behaviour. The Tabletop drawings have become as much about drawing, as they are about life.

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