Art for me first and foremost is about processing, it always has been whether or not I realized it. It would be a stretch to say that when I started painting in high school, I was aware of this but at this point in my career it is a unifying truth within my work. When I say processing I suppose what I mean is using the act of creation, the simple movement of painting or the intention behind selecting a colour palette as a way of visualizing difficult feelings. The process of creating art to me is cathartic and provides not necessarily solutions to my own mental health, but rather an avenue for recognizing emotions.
Being a primarily self-taught artist up until my decision to attend an undergraduate program in 2017, I have never considered my work to be pretty or polished, nor do I intend it to be. Through my education I was given the opportunity to experiment with a variety of mediums and ideas in conjunction with mentors pushing me to explore concepts which held incredible value for me. With this experience I have attempted to distill my self reflection regarding my own mental health into a visual language as a way to describe and further explore emotions which I often find difficult to discuss.
As luck would have it this visual language came easily to me as I was able to take concepts I had been using for years and imbue them with new meaning and direction. From when I started painting more seriously in 2012 I have constantly repeated a certain form or character which was derived from an interest in the characters often seen in the work of graffiti artists. My first few years of painting were spent obsessing over colourful, cleanly drawn, renderings of aliens, robots, mutated rats and basically anything non-human. These characters, while they held little to no overt meaning have provided me with a platform to build upon for over a decade all the while changing and morphing constantly. These characters as they are presented today have become an alphabet of sorts to use as a way of visually describing a distinct mental state. The forms are no longer clean and controlled but oftentimes messy and scattered as I have tried to abstract upon the same idea I have always been using.
Each time I approach work in this way I feel more connected to the characters I am presenting, I feel more strongly about the paintings I am creating, and I feel as if my work has a sense of purpose and direction. I feel proud to have the opportunity to share these parts of me and to contribute to and include others in a conversation surrounding my own mental health in hopes it will inspire others to find ways in which they feel comfortable exploring the topic, both in art and anything else they may be doing.
For more on Kevin’s work, visit kevinfrankart.com. This September, his gallery show Internalize will be on display at the Arts Station - a ‘collection of work that utilizes a distinct visual language to communicate the artist’s mental state.’