Francesca Mollett - Modern & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Friday, May 31, 2024 | Phillips
  • “I’d like for the viewer to feel an intensity of connection and potentiality within the things around them. When I leave exhibitions, one of the most stimulating feelings is to come out and feel like you have internalized the perception of the artist; you start seeing scenes as if they were paintings.”
    — Francesca Mollett

    Though definitions for the word Cadence vary - from a melodic or harmonic resolution to a measured beat, to a modulation of noise - most relate to sound or music, and indeed Francesca Mollett’s painting has a direct, elemental power that defies restrictive description. Crashing, rhythmic contrasts in shapes and tones, reminiscent of the most exceptional Abstract Expressionist masterpieces, are given greater force by a mix of liquid acrylic and drier oil paints, layered over a charcoal sketch. Rendered in a large-scale format, sometimes left to flow and sometimes guided with a palette knife, Mollett’s layers are overwhelming and uneasy to navigate. These, along with the mountainous forms, gem-like details, and earthy colours all reflect her fascination with natural landscapes and history, seeing them as sublime, inhuman, and beyond direct understanding. Her profound connection to the natural world serves as the backdrop of her paintings and through her artistic prowess, she skilfully communicates her desire to capture its essence on canvas through the intricate depiction of landforms, flora and fauna, transporting the viewer into the heart of these landscapes, enveloped by their serene beauty and awe-inspiring expansiveness.


    Light, Earth, and Water


    A graduate of both the Royal Drawing School and the Royal College of Art, Mollett began working in figuration, later shifting to abstraction where ‘there was more freedom to transform things rather than thrusting them into the recognisablei. Material feminists and working outdoors had a large influence on this, driving her to focus more on materials and phenomena as in her statement for the RCA in which, she envisions ‘the human intermingling with the more-than human as I paint, suggestive through corporeal marks, geological textures, and meteorological transparenciesii.


    As such, nature and atmospheric effects are often a source of inspiration, in which she had one solo show themed around light-and-moss-covered surfaces, but whilst her oeuvre is undeniably rooted in tradition, her artistic vision is informed by a multitude of artists who have come before her, as well as her contemporaries. A frequent visitor to London’s National Gallery, aside from looking at 15th century Italian artists Giovanni di Paolo and Piero della Francesca, one of her favourite paintings is one by French painter Édouard Manet of his wife with his cat, in which she had noted that ‘her body has very gestural flowing brush marks and everything around it is quite solid.iii.  


    Encouraged by the arts led regeneration project ‘7 Bridges’ in Loughborough Junction near her studio - which aims to turn disregarded bridges into a sequence of events that evoke a sense of community - particularly with mosaic artist Tamara Froud’s created fossils at the Cambria Bridge, Mollett moves toward depicting new and less familiar forms in a recent show, exploring how the effects of time impact the fissured, subterranean landscapes.



    Edouard Manet, Woman with a Cat, circa. 1880-2, National Gallery, London.
    Image: Uwe Deffner / Alamy Stock Photo




    However ineffable Mollett’s paintings may seem, they are also heavily inspired by literature. At the time she was making this painting, she had a deep affinity with American experimental poet Fanny Howe’s essay in 1999, ‘Bewilderment’. Howe envisioned a writing process that seeks to mimic the strangeness of the dream world and how one surrenders to the subconscious. Mystery, randomness, and bewilderment were not weaknesses but a means through which powerful pieces can be crafted.


    By exposing oneself to the subconscious, one can arrive closer to the truth of the feeling, which is often random, contradictory, and non-linear. Along with her conception of bewilderment, Howe combined the idea of gyres or spirals, writing 'For to the spiral-walker there is no plain path, no up and down, no inside or outside. But there are strange returns and recognitions and never a conclusion.' vi One is reminded of how spiralling paths move in dream vision narratives and Mollett certainly finds synchroneity in Howe’s figure of the spiral walker and explores bewilderment as a way of navigating between thoughts and images as she grapples with storytelling, material and abstraction.
    “Q--the Quidam, the unknown one--or I, is turning in a circle and keeps passing herself on her way around, her former self, her later self, and the trace of this passage is marked by a rhyme, a coded message for ‘I have been here before, I will return’.
    The same sound splays the sound-waves into a polyvalence, a daisy. A bloom is not a parade.”
    — Fanny Howe

    In her own painting, Mollett tries to replicate this by using a palette knife to ‘entangle part of the paintings back around on themselves’v, suggesting a multitude of perspectives in order to disorientate the viewer further. Deeply immersive and hard to take in everything all at once, her paintings remind us of the great, incomprehensible depths beneath the world and art alike, all whilst expressing a distinctly personal and complex creative vision.


    Detail of the present lot


    Collector’s Digest


    Born in Bristol, 1991, and based in London, Francesca Mollett graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2020 and has quickly garnered acclaim for her mercurial, nature-inspired abstract paintings. Since then, her work has appeared in distinguished international collections, including the K11 Art Foundation in Hong Kong, Kunstmuseum in The Hague, and the Green Family Art Foundation in Miami. She recently exhibited in Hauser & Wirth’s group show, Present Tense, in Somerset (27 January – 28 April), and will soon host a New York solo show, Corso (10 May – 22 June), with her gallery representative GRIMM. Solo exhibitions in 2023 include Noon  at Pond Society in Shanghai,  Halves at GRIMM in Amsterdam, and Low Sun at Micki Meng in San Francisco. Phillips has sold all four of her highest-valued works, with the record being Two Thistles in London, October 2023, for £250,000 GBP -over ten times its low estimate.


    i Francesca Mollett in conversation with Alex Needham, ‘Francesca Mollett Brings Abstract Art Back to Life’, W Magazine, 12 January 2023.

    ii Francesca Mollett, quoted in her artist statement at Royal College of Arts.

    iii  Francesca Mollett, W Magazine.

    iv   Fanny Howe, Love and I, Graywolf Press, 2019

    Francesca Mollett in conversation with Rory Mitchell, ‘Francesca Mollett in the Studio’, Ocula, 17 November 2022.

    • Provenance

      The Artist Room, London
      Acquired from the above by the present owner



signed, titled and dated '“Cadence”, Francesca Mollett 2022' on the overlap
oil and acrylic on calico
139.5 x 105.3 cm. (54 7/8 x 41 1/2 in.)
Executed in 2022.

Full Cataloguing

HK$250,000 - 350,000 

Sold for HK$952,500

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2027

Modern & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 31 May 2024