Born and raised in suburban West Auckland, Frances Atkins' upbringing has greatly influenced her exploration of contemporary Maori subjects within her paintings. Her work engages depictions of Maori culture throughout history and the common characteristics of urban Maori portrayals since the 1950s.
Taking an interest in representations of early Maori, Atkins references well-known New Zealand portrait painters including Gottfried Lindauer and Charles Goldie. Touching on the way art is used to create a national identity within New Zealand, Atkins presents work of a contrasting and less idealistic nature.
Atkins' paintings also identify common Maori issues, such as the large gaps in cultural knowledge, loss of tradition and language, and the substandard living circumstances of municipal Maori living. By disrupting the familiar imagery of these Maori topics and by juxtaposing the foreign with the familiar, Atkins brings forth the possibility for new narratives to arise.
Her series 'State House' touches on the common reality of urban Maori living standards, and highlights the continued emotional and monetary struggle ensuing state housing. The series also investigates Maori urban identity as evolving through sub-standard conditions and relays emerging cultural alternatives, where mismatched dining sets, old furniture and 'Homebrand' groceries confront us with modern Maori realities.
Frances Atkins' paintings are often rendered in a raw and rudimentary style on a smaller scale. Her vivid oil colours are engaging and intense, while contrasting colour groups reinforce the sense of tension and unease expressed within her subjects.
Atkins earned her degree in Visual Arts from AUT University in 2011 and has participated in numerous exhibitions since 2006.