Our Q&A with RWA Artist Network member Rebecca Barnard…
“…I don’t require anyone to “get” my work but what I hope for is that they want to look at it more than once and ask themselves why that is, and why they have responded to it enough to look again. By its nature, abstraction doesn’t declare itself but requires an inquiring mind…”
A member of the RWA Artist Network, Rebecca’s striking mixed media works combine figurative and abstract elements.
Based in Somerset, she exhibits throughout the UK and her work is now in private collections across the world, including USA, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Egypt. She has been selected for numerous exhibitions including the Royal Academy, The Society of Women Artists, the Mall Galleries and the RWA.
In August 2021 Rebecca is exhibiting alongside Heather Wallace in Inside Out – a creative dialogue between two women artists at Heritage Courtyard Studios, Wells.
When did you realise you were an artist?
I’ve always painted, back to childhood. Even during the many barren years of dead end jobs, I always knew I had art. But it wasn’t until my early 30s, after a spell of depression and consequent psychotherapy, that I realised I had a choice to actually be an artist. Once I had finally grasped this, I went forward with full intention and haven’t looked back.
Why do you make art?
It isn’t a choice for me. It is innate – a sort of addiction I suppose. One for which I feel very blessed. It is what has sustained me through life and is the thing that allows me to express myself when words and deeds cannot. I do it because, mentally and spiritually, I must.
Your work originates from a figurative background but also has strong abstract qualities. Can you tell us something about this?
Yes, I am a natural draughtswoman and drawing what I see comes as second nature but the journey to abstraction is a natural progression as I begin to work more instinctively and intuitively. The work is mixed media but oil paint and cold wax play a big role at the moment. I sometimes feel like a child, still finding out how things react. For example, burning the surface or using products which change the nature of a medium.
How do you like others to look at and read your paintings?
I don’t require anyone to “get” my work but what I hope for is that they want to look at it more than once and ask themselves why that is, and why they have responded to it enough to look again. By its nature, abstraction doesn’t declare itself but requires an inquiring mind. I hope that those who are drawn to my work allow it to wash over them and take in their consequent feelings.
How has your work changed or evolved through your career? Was there a particular turning point?
The change has been very organic and is ongoing. Becoming immersed in the artworld has given me the courage to explore my process and work far more intuitively, allowing it to form and lead me. It’s disquieting, which I like.
This period of relative isolation during the pandemic has been a major turning point. Being able to totally focus on the root and evolution of my work has set a ball rolling, enabling a change in mindset which has been truly freeing.
What are you working on now?
I have been working with my studio neighbour and business partner, Heather Wallace on our new exhibition INSIDE OUT which starts on August 20th at Heritage Courtyard Gallery in Wells. We hope the work captures the joy of sharing the creative process as well as being an unconscious record of our negotiation, humour and of testing and respecting our creative boundaries. Kate Wilson PhD will also be exhibiting exciting ceramics created in direct response to our paintings. It’s going to be a blaze of colour.
What does being a Network artist mean to you?
It is a great privilege to be connected to the RWA in this way and allows me access to a unique resource, for which I am very grateful.
“…Drawing what I see comes as second nature but the journey to abstraction is a natural progression as I begin to work more instinctively and intuitively. I sometimes feel like a child, still finding out how things react…”
Where can we see more of your work?
I exhibit in Cambridge, close to where I was born, Suffolk and London as well as, of course, in Wells where I now live. I am currently seeking West Country representation and I welcome all art lovers to my studio at Heritage Courtyard where I work as one of nine amazing artists.
You can see more of Rebecca’s work on her website.
Interview by Laurel Smart