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Print (MA)

Francesca Onesti

Francesca Onesti is an artist whose practice revolves around the experience of remote natural environments and phenomena. She is a recipient of The Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation grant 2021 and has a place to start PhD research at the Royal College of Art in 2022 after completing her MA Print. She graduated from Loughborough University with a BA Fine Art in 2019 with First Class Honours. She has exhibited work within the UK including at the Royal College of Art Work in Progress Show in 2020, and was the recipient of the John Mack Foundation Award for Fine Art at Loughborough University in 2016.

Show Location: Battersea campus: Dyson & Woo Buildings, First floor and mezzanine

My practice revolves around embodied experiences of remote natural environments and phenomena, investigating my relationship with the locations, particularly volcanic environments in Iceland. My recent work was developed from a solo camping expedition to the volcanic eruption at Fagradalsfjall and the Krafla volcanic zone. I am interested in how different elements are 'diffracted' through and shaped by each other, and embodying the complexities of these experiences.

These places are characterised by evident geological or glaciological forces and difficult climatic conditions, environments where I feel atmosphere 'resonates' between myself and the surroundings. My experiences revolve around an ‘absorbing’ of surroundings, characterised by the personal, geological specificities, affective intensities, detailed noticing, sensory receptiveness, isolation, the psychological and remembered, as well as a feeling of absolute presence in the location. I am interested in what I bring to the place and absorb from it. The translation of intensities into my work where they become materialised, surfacing or resurfacing, is important.

Aspects of the experience such as being alone, hazards perceived and real, climatic conditions and remoteness influence the work. My autoethnographic research develops the idea of an 'expeditionary practice' where practical work is the culmination of lived physical and mental challenges in reaching and experiencing remote locations or phenomena. Hiking and camping enable me to become closely involved with surroundings, subject to the elements, exploring the physical and psychological relationship between myself and natural materials.

Developing an expanded print practice, I am currently working with etching, aquatint and hand-drawn photopolymer plates, applying colour a la poupée, experimenting with effects of lithographic materials, masking fluid and ink, and exploring the implications of merging haptic-optic perspective. Processes of making are physical and involved, allowing re-engagement with place. The material nature of etching is an important element of my practice, reflecting chemical changes to surface such as geothermal ground alteration and allowing exploration of a strong attraction to geo-specific textures, structures and colours through its particular intaglio language. I integrate descriptive writing with visual imagery to express elements of my experiences which the visual material cannot, and to explore the relationships between the linguistic, affective and sensory.

Environmental concerns are relevant in the work and I invite haptic, affective and psychological engagement with the specific places and materials by presenting them through different perspectives, registering scale in different ways, questioning how multiple images interact and are read, and suggesting a different type of involvement with these locations based in submitting, yielding and respect.

Námaskarð, 2022
Geothermal pool, 2022
Alone, Krafla, 2022
Crater pool, 2022
Ice retreating across the lava field, 2022

Into the North: Icy flurries, orange ground surrounded by snow, steam clouds, figures half hidden, soft colours in the dull light.

Standing on the crater rim. Cold wind. Low clouds across the plateau, grey above white. Partially melted snow, lines along the road, sheen of ice water. Bands of black and white. Sulphur crystals. Warm coloured mud. There is no one here.

Moments of sunlight intensify the colours, grey mud, shallow streams winding through the hydrothermally altered ground.


Photopolymer etchings, Etching and Aquatint


80x60cm, 60x50cm
Lavafall at Fagradalsfjall, 2022

Fog over the lava field, sulphurous gases carried through the mist, black rock, jagged edges, blocky rubble. Smooth surfaces of raised lava tubes, solidified pools, ropey trails. Crevices where the lava cracked. Discoloured around the vents, crystallising.


3 plate Lithograph


Fumaroles and sulphur streams, 2020
Rhyolite, ice and steam, 2020
Ridge in the geothermal valley, 2020
Bridge, warm stream, 2020

Climbing up towards the ice; cloud thicker, dimmer. Flecks of sleet-cold rain hitting bare skin. Slipping down loose wet rock, water trails seeping under the moss, beneath the suspended ice crust. Sheltered for a moment between the mountains, white snow glowing under the dark cloud. Footholes refrozen, solid and slippery. Semi melted pools of stained ice; black bands of rock. Beyond the boulders the ground colour changes, rhyolite clay, a film of water on the surface of the ground, pooling in the pitted earth.

Standing at the plateau edge, yellow mud caked around feet in the saturated clay. A moment of light falls across the valley, intensifying the orange hills beneath the dark ash and white snow patches of the high peaks that circle the valley. A fumarole roars out steam nearby, surrounded by geothermally altered ground; pink and white, crusted.


Etching and Aquatints, Photopolymer etchings


60x50cm, 30x20cm
Steam rising, black ash plateau, 2020
Looking down from Brennisteinsalda, 2020
Steam vents, 2020
Lava flow, Landmannalaugar, 2019
Fumaroles, ash and ice, Stórihver, 2019
Crusted rock, 2019

Laugahraun lava field, glassy rock, sharp edged, black, brown streaks, soft whitish moss, rounded lumps. Powdery blue-green, rhyolite. Pick it up and crumble it between fingers, softer than sand. Falls back down as dust. Deep pink mound, oxides, pockmarked with holes venting steam. Standing in the dense steam, strong sulphur fumes, breathing it in. Square crystals, bright yellow. Push hand into soil, warm ground.


Etching and Aquatints, Lithographs


60x50cm, 50x40cm, 100x80cm, 50x80cm