Exclusive interview with Rachel Grove – Artist
NY Glam: Tell us a little about yourself and your career beginnings.
Before I even picked up a paintbrush, I used to talk on the telephone and doodle symbols, shapes and faces whilst engaging in a conversation. One symbol I used to draw was a paintbrush with paint splatters coming out of it. It was not clear to me at the time why I would draw such a thing. It was only years later when I started to embark on my painting career, that I remembered those paintbrush doodles whilst on the telephone, and realized that it had always been there, the propensity to paint but I just wasn’t aware of it at the time.
I started painting at the age of 24 whilst I was staying in the German countryside. I came across a little art shop in the village where I was staying and picked up some watercolor paints. A passion in painting was instantly ignited. From that day on I decided to go to Art School and have been painting ever since. I graduated from North Adelaide School of Art (Australia) in 2000 and since 2003 have exhibited in various group exhibitions both in New York, UK, Italy and Australia.
NY Glam: What projects are you currently working on?
Currently I am continuing to develop ideas centered around self-portraiture. Self portraiture has been and continues to be a constant in my art practice. I enjoy exploring ideas and thoughts related to issues that interest me such as the current pandemic as well as climate change, and develop ways to incorporate these issues in conjunction with self-portraiture. When I paint self-portraits, I seek not to replicate but use myself as a vehicle for interpretation. I start with myself as a reference (either using a mirror or a photo) but then I tend to move away from the initial reference and simply allow the painting process to take effect. This is where I tap into my intuition and even though each portrait may look different there is always an inner aspect of myself within each portrait. I trust the process. It is not always easy as more often than not, the portrait can take many different guises until I feel I have reached the desired effect. It can be a temperamental process.
NY Glam: What art do you most identify with?
I naturally mostly identify with painting but can appreciate other art forms such photography and film. Within the realm of painting, I tend to gravitate towards portraiture as well as artists that use text in their work. I identify with art that has a message but can also appreciate the aesthetic and beauty in art. If a piece of art resonates with me, reasons can vary from the concept of it being strong, being whimsical, or by simply having a strong aesthetic. I am always drawn to color in art. If an artist has used an unusual palette, or the colors simply resonate with me, that automatically ignites my curiosity.
NY Glam: What themes do you pursue?
I have a keen interest in animal welfare and climate change. This is a theme that is always in the forefront of my mind. I often think of ideas and ways to combine symbols & ideas that reflect climate change, and how to incorporate these ideas alongside portraiture. For example, a painting from 2019 titled ‘Calling Assisi (Self Portrait as a Spiritual Activist) is a comment on Coltan mining and the impacts on the loss of habitat for gorillas. In the painting, I call for assistance (halo included!) to the Patron Saint of Animals and the Environment (St. Francis of Assisi) yet I call on a mobile phone- the very thing that is contributing to the problem.
Recent themes have reflected the impacts of Covid 19 with titles such as ‘Self Portrait (thinking about the vaccine) and ‘Lockdown Landscape’. I also pursue themes that relate to the simplicities of the everyday, the mundane. Reflecting upon the quiet moments that lockdown has enabled us to rekindle with and connecting with the simplicities of the everyday is a reminder (especially within a rather chaotic world) to oneself that such moments are there if we take the time to acknowledge them. I am also drawn to painting the everyday through depicting street scenes, although a move away from portraiture, it still enables me to reflect upon the everyday landscape and find the magic that lies within our daily lives if we permit it.
NY Glam: What’s your favorite art work?
I have a few favorite artworks. When I first started painting, I was immediately drawn to the Impressionists especially the still life paintings of Paul Cezanne. I am also a big fan of ‘The Pope’ by Francis Bacon, the immediacy of the paint application and the existential feel of the painting is one that I never tire looking at. As a contrast, I also love the paintings of French artist William Bouguereau. My favorite is ‘The Seated Madonna’ painted in 1888. It is a beautiful painting, so beautifully executed.
NY Glam: Tells us about some of your recent exhibitions. What memorable responses have you had to your work?
I recently participated in an exhibition called ‘Romantica – The shape of my art’ which was a virtual exhibition held in Milan. This was a new experience for me to exhibit as part of an immersive digital exhibition. It was interesting that visitors could zoom in on the work to see up close the detail to the work which I think is very innovative. Last year l participated in a local group show (Albert Park College Art show) which I have regularly participated in. I am scheduled to have a self-portrait solo show coming up in July in Melbourne which I am excited about. Being a semi-finalist in 2017 & 2019 at the Doug Moran National Portrait prize (held annually in Australia) was very exciting given the number of entries that were submitted and that I made the semi finals.
NY Glam: Tell us about one of your projects which you are very proud of.
I am very proud of a painting titled ‘Self Portrait (thinking about climate change). Although this painting is not necessarily a project, it is part of an ongoing larger series on climate change. I am proud of it simply because this portrait was painted at a time (and over the duration of 10 days) when I felt very strongly about the issue of climate change. It had been pivotal in the news and after watching several documentaries on it, it had left me greatly impacted. The portrait is a very intense portrait, with heavy layers applied. It is not a pretty picture, and it isn’t meant to be. I feel it has a great impact.
NY Glam: What does “being creative” mean to you?
Being creative means to me being in your element with having no preconceived ideas, no limitations, and having the freedom to experiment with your ideas in a creative way. I think creativity has no limits, as soon as you apply too many rules, this has the potential to stifle creativity. It is about risk taking and having the confidence to take risks. We all have the ability to be creative as we are creative beings, I guess it all depends on how much you are driven by your creativity and how much time you put into it will then show the extent of your own creativity. Being creative enables me to tap into my inner core, to take risks and not be afraid to just change something if it is not working. I have often spent hours without a break changing and altering a painting. A certain level of perfectionism also overrides this process.
NY Glam: What are you trying to communicate with your art?
I want my art to spiritually resonate with the viewers. I want my artworks to transcend the viewer and to communicate on a subconscious level so that the viewer never tires and stops questioning the art. I want to help generate discussions by the title of the work and then the imagery itself. I hope to generate discussions and reflections on topics that are important.
NY Glam: What role does the Artist have in Society?
I think artists play a significant role in society helping to implement change by evoking awareness on issues. Artists can help to change views and assist people to see things in new ways, enabling fresh insight to come into effect. When I think of a world without art, it would be a very isolated world devoid of color, beauty and as a way for people to reflect on issues that matter.
NY Glam: What are your thoughts on being an artist in today’s world?
In today’s social media saturated world, art has become more accessible. I think it is fantastic to have platforms like Instagram to showcase your work and network with other artists. In this sense it is an incredibly supportive environment for artists to network with other artists, potential buyers and collectors of art. I think 2020 enabled more people to tap into their creativity enabling art to play a more dominating role. I think in today’s world there are more opportunities for art especially through digital immersive art experiences. I do however think that painting will remain as strong as ever!
NY Glam: How has painting influenced your life?
Painting has enriched my life in so many ways. From the day I picked up a paintbrush, painting has been a driving force in my life. I am an obsessive painter, obsessive about the process, solving problems when they arise, how I can link the work to the next and future ideas for the next body of work. I am totally driven by what I am going to paint next and am always in the process of analyzing and critiquing what I do. In this instance painting continues to challenge me and I think it is this process that influences me the most.
NY Glam: What art movement or artist would you say influences your work most?
Initially, De Kooning was a big influence on my work. I was drawn to his paint application, the raw gestural mark making. These days, I would say I am influenced by the works of Ben Quilty (again for his mark making and expressive portraits), Frida Kahlo (I connect with her given that she painted self-portraits) and David Hockney. I am also drawn to the works of Jean Michel Basquiat as I also enjoy adding text to my work sometimes.
NY Glam: What can we expect from you this year?
This year I am continuing to develop a body of work on portraiture painted in conjunction with the theme of climate change. I am currently starting to adapt my color palette and work with tones and colors that are new to me. I am excited to see where this will take me and how it will lead me in my work. I am hoping to work towards another exhibition where I will be able to showcase a body of work on this theme.
NY Glam: Can you share with us three favorite things about your city/culture?
Melbourne is a great city for the arts. I really enjoy spending time going for a coffee and then going to see an art exhibition at the main art gallery or some local smaller art venue. Melbourne particularly comes alive whenever a major travelling exhibition is showing and can be a very exciting place to be. This is also the same when the comedy festival is on. The city becomes a hub of excitement! Going out for lunch in Melbourne is also fun as there are so many trendy food places to eat. We are rather spoilt for choice here! I also enjoy driving out of the city and visiting the Dandenong Ranges to walk the dogs in the forest where the trees are tall, and the landscape is peaceful. @rachelthepainter