Frances Willoughby

Frances Willoughby is a British multidisciplinary artist based in Bristol who has exhibited both nationally and internationally, including the Mall Galleries and the Royal West of England Academy. In 2019 she completed an artist residency at the Helmut Gallery in Leipzig, Germany.

Willoughby’s practice includes sculpture, installation, and collage, subverting the traditional and manipulating reality. Her work is figurative and aims to distort our preconceptions of the familiar through the manipulation of nostalgic objects and traditional feminine craft. Sewing and textiles play a large part in the creation of mixed media soft-sculptures. Within this series, she has adapted toy patterns to create life-sized female bodies which draw on her fascination with dolls. These self-contained forms are autobiographical and stem from relationships, anxiety, and conflict. A key piece from this body of work is ‘Escaping the Pull’ (2020) a soft-sculpture she created in response to her struggle with catastrophic thinking due to a sense of isolation during the pandemic. With each piece of work, she provokes a narrative using a series of symbols that are often nostalgic objects, inviting the viewer to reflect on their own history. The work acknowledges the greyness and fog of emotions, using conflicting materials of textiles, wire and pins to convey the uncertainty and instabilities of life.

Surrealism and psychoanalysis play a part in her practice as expressed in the work Bad Breast (2019); a soft sculpture series featuring embroidered, fabric breasts covered in acupuncture needles. This body of work draws on Melanie Klein’s theories on the psychoanalysis of children and her work on the object relations theory.

A fogginess re-emerges within her collage work where found photographs inspire curiosity and provoke unanswerable questions. These strangers represent faded memories, an anonymous snapshot into another reality. After spending several years carefully cataloguing her own family photographs, she became more interested in collecting those she had no link to. Undefined and malleable their past unknown, they enable new narratives to be woven. These images have become an inexplicit memorial, conveying a sense of fragmentation and loss.