Franke stands for the prototype of the artist as public figure. Through the profound street credibility gained from hosting some of Austrias most popular clubs, he and his work are often the subject of gossip, rumor and adoration.
To the general public Franke appears to be a romantic, sensitive man, hard to provoke and always kind to dogs, but also ready to punch a trouble makers nose whenever his night job as bouncer demands. As a painter however, Franke resembles the protean monster turned artist, who is caught in a canvas-and-paper cathouse of his own construction.
Born in 1972 near Cologne, he was raised in Austria, Germany and Spain. At school Franke was a quiet student, who not only passed time with sketching cartoons but also earned his first pocket money from selling hand made comic booklets. At the age of 16, he was the youngest student accepted to the “Hochschule für künstlerische und industrielle Gestaltung”, in Linz/Austria. After two years of total boredom the “restless nomad in search of a place to fall”, left for Vienna where he worked various jobs, creating everything from caricatures to porn comics and forged paintings.
It was the experience of the intense vibrant underground culture that formed his style, the world of low-brow art, pinup magazines and tattoo shops - the universal mindset of rebellion, that Franke fell in love with. Soon after he found the place matching all these layers and immediately knew he found a home away from home - Amsterdam. Interestingly enough, he may well be the only tattoo artist out there, who does not have a tattoo himself.
Back in Vienna, and after a short period of airbrushing custom vehicles, where he refused to take on wacky illustration jobs, he started to host clubs to pay for his food. It was here that he got involved with the music scene, and soon he created his first record covers.
Today Franke is a popular figure in the Austrian music and house club scene, although in private he prefers sticking to the vibes of rock and blues music, especially when it comes to choosing the soundtrack accompanying his creative output.
Recently he took on designing mood boards, characters, storyboards, political cartoons and concept art for commercials. He also collaborates with production companies like “Butterflies and Bunnyrabbits”,”Orbrock” and “Sabotage Films”.
Franke is a loner with a court, yet the opposite of lonely, since he is passionately tending to a few close friends and muses. His four long time relationships put him through heaven and hell and shaped his raw artistic soul. He is a beneficiary of the belief that the language of painting really matters to people other than their devotees.
His “all the good things in life are still made by hand” mode, can be seen as a gesture of independence.
For it doesn’t matter if the painting takes days, weeks or even months to finish, when the painter detaches himself from space and time during the process. And after all, ruining artwork by spilling watercolors on the canvas is such a substantial and beautiful experience compared to witnessing Adobe Photoshop crash due to memory restrictions.
For Franke to walk on traditional artistic paths means to achieve freedom from self-explanation but also to be seen as helpless romantic by onlookers, even though the mans dresscode resembles anything but the prototypical bards robe. In his work, everything is staked on sensation and desire. The aim is to go for the strongest level of feeling.
He conveys his art with tremendous force, making you feel the weight of forms and the tension of their relationships mainly by drawing and tonal structure. Franke brings storytelling back in a disguised form, told through metaphors and puns.
A powerful element in the story is sex, of course. He imposes on it a massive load of feeling, ranging from dreamy eroticism to a sardonic but frenzied hostility. He does this through metamorphosis, going as far as recomposing the body as the shape of his fantasies of possession and of his sexual drive.
His production takes on a obsessive quality, as though the creative act could forestall death. Franke once said, “The greatest encouragement in what I do and how I see life came from my teacher Go-Al-Nowak, who was the first one to treat me like an adult at the age of 13. His unique and unforgettable way of life, his means of combining visual art and storytelling showed me all aspects of the craft. He took his life many years ago and is now peeking over my shoulder, supporting and reassuring me with his head nodding slightly.“
Written by Robert Huttinger
Butterflies and Bunnyrabbits, Vienna 2006