Francis Sling (Curaçao, 1979) is a visual artist, working in Curaçao. He studied graphic design at Grafisch Lyceum Amsterdam from 2000 to 2004.
Aside from his undeniable media presence, the recently turned quadragenarian is a force to be reckoned with. As the 2017 and 2018 recipient of Amigoe Express’ award for Best Artist, there is no doubt his work is at the very least seductive and captivating with very strong messaging. A self-proclaimed poet, Francis Sling uses the brush to express his colorful poetry on any surface he’s drawn to. He is quite versed in the ways of sculpting and wood carving. Unsurprisingly, music comes as easy to him as painting. Francis has a knack for string and percussion instruments alongside composing music and poetry. In fact, if becoming a painter didn’t pan out, he would be a musician.
His online presence allows the public to live vicariously through his vivid world of murals, paint workshops, festival residencies like Kaya Kaya December (2018) with #kitasunu,a project where he invited the community to bare it all literally and figuratively. More recently, he designed the bar for newcomer carnival group Hats off to Dreams and won! “My video-posts are really an extension of my art, it’s how I communicate and show the public who I am,” explains Francis. His paintings and murals ‘speak’ loudly, yet, not everyone can hear his message. This is where his videos come in handy. “It’s an opportunity to describe my train of thought and art in simpler, profound and even comical way.”
Francis’ work is an exploration of the human condition. Human beings are in a perpetual search of happiness when it comes to family, career and especially love. This universal phenomenon is the very thing that flows into his art. His is an exploration of the dichotomy between loving someone and not losing oneself in the process. “The perfect marriage or relationship-ideal doesn’t exist. It’s a fabrication we as a society impose on ourselves. The high divorce rate and number of extra-marital affairs are testament to this,” explains Francis. His incessant exploration of this very subject drives his technique in his lauded mural Three o’ Clock Romance in Skálo (2017). Perfection is an ideal, very much like his mural. From afar it takes your breath away, take a closer look however and you see it’s quite messy, like life itself. “Not one single thing in nature is linear, so why should we be as human beings,” wonders Francis.
His curiosity for existentialism stems from his deeply religious background. Raised in a strict Christian household, Francis spent much of his early years on a feverous quest for God that lasted well into his teenage years. He came to the realization he couldn’t find anymore answers in religion, at least not in the way it was taught to him. “You can say I had evolved from it”, says Francis. Instead, his vigorous search brought his spirit closer to the local flora and fauna. He grew up surrounded by nature in the hills of Ser’i Fortuna. When time came to pursue his studies in graphic design across the world, those memories remained printed in his heart. “The Curaçao landscape is unlike anywhere and I couldn’t get the colors out of my system.” This explains the warmth and tropical feel in his art.
His stunning murals Sunú (2017) in Otrobanda and Swing Kontentu (2018) at Landhuis Bloemhof are further examples of his exploration of the human condition. His Gallery in Skálo houses a number of paintings. Many of his work in the Netherlands hangs in private homes and there are over seventeen paintings in the Curaçao House in The Hague. Eight are visualizations of the stanzas of Curaçao’s national anthem. Two are life size paintings of the historical figures Tula and Bastian Karpata, leaders of the fight for freedom of the enslaved, in 1795.
Francis enjoys spending his days playing what he calls his ‘real guitar,’ an artsy guitar made by his brother artist Omar Sling from recycled materials.
Text by Elizabeth Francisco (2019).
Photographs Kaya Kaya by Josée Thissen-Rojer.