When Fran first asked me to write a few words for his revamped website, I was both delighted and daunted. What a Herculean task, to paint a word-portrait of this profound and prolific artist. I can begin by telling you of my own experience of Fran as an artist and a friend.
I have known Fran McCann for over fifty years, we met in 1964, I had enrolled in a night class of life drawing in Belfast, being taught by a man called John Luke. The class was beyond my grasp, so I simply paid my shillings for the joy of watching Luke and McCann spar with chalks and pencils and bring light and life to flat paper, I even modelled my hands for them on one occasion, just to watch them draw, I had never seen anything like it even to this day. John Luke recognized all those years ago the naive ability in this humble, young man and nurtured and encouraged it.
Watching Fran McCann paint in his preferred impasto style is pure alchemy. Max Courtauld (Collector)
I had the good sense not to become an artist as my natural talent was only mediocre, instead I earn a living acquiring art and antiquities around the globe. I have always been astounded at how often I encounter Fran’s work whilst carrying out my own. In a gallery in Leipzig Germany whilst thumbing through a ‘Who’s Who’ there was Fran’s name, in a restaurant in Columbus Ohio hangs one of Fran’s landscapes. A bureaucratic delay with paper work in the Giuseppe De Nittis Foundation in Barletta, Italy, was greatly expedited when I exclaimed loudly to the curator whilst walking through the foyer “I know this Artist!” There they were, two of Fran’s paintings adorning their new building.
Watching Fran McCann paint in his preferred impasto style is pure alchemy. ( I am hoping this modern medium will one day hold a live video of Fran at work so the whole world will know that I exaggerate not one word!) Nearly ten years ago I watched Fran capture a Galway street scene, live before a Galway audience in Tom Kenny’s Gallery. Galway folk are extremely protective of their vibrant city and a more critical audience would be hard to find, they assembled to watch this contender try to capture their ‘Arcadia’ and I sat at the back of the room grinning… the room slowly synchronized as he took up his pallet knife and began. They become transfixed as he transformed a base canvas into a living moment in time. I watched the crowded gallery become captivated, drawn into the process of blobs becoming buildings, gestures of the wrist becoming street lights and strokes changing oil-statues into moving masses. Alchemy! The room collectively exhaled as he completed the canvas and needless to say, it was sold before the palette knife hit the paint box.
Where many artists feel the need to be insecure and self centered Fran stands in vivid contrast with his kindness and humanity.Max Courtauld (Collector)
Fran, although widely acknowledged in the European art world, (as the list of accomplishment on the following page will reflect) is modestly quiet at home in Ireland. His home and garden are as much a reflection of his creativity as any of his canvases. He is generous with his teaching abilities and has helped many young artists as he himself was once nurtured. His praise and encouragement of many floundering artists, musicians and poets has helped them to hold to their creativity course. Where many artists feel the need to be insecure and self centered Fran stands in vivid contrast with his kindness and humanity.
Life has a way of making us all ridiculously busy, stealing time away and making it far too long in between those precious moments, where we simple savour and enjoy beauty and truth. Fran’s art is a microcosm of beauty and truth. His work has depth that can be explored timelessly and indefinitely, with each new glance granting a new revelation.
Every chance I get, which nowadays is indeed rare, I get myself to Fran’s studio. If he is working I watch him paint, sometimes we argue about art, sometimes we just talk, about the world, about his garden, about my travels. I work my way through the piles of canvases stacked precariously on makeshift shelves to see what this singular talent has been up to since we last met. I have on occasion saved the odd masterpiece from his reject pile, but mostly I just sit and absorb and reflect. I come away feeling better. Feeling whole.
You all have a chance now to explore Fran’s studio through the pages of this website, enjoy it. If you ever get the opportunity to go to his exhibitions…do not miss that opportunity, just go! Explore and enjoy his work, be made whole by the encounter.