INTERVIEW: Rachel Lancaster | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Kuba Ryniewicz

Rachel Lancaster is a painter and musician who’s been part of the fabric of the arts in the North East for many years, and in various forms. Hartlepool-born but long since relocated to Newcastle, she graduated both BA and MFA from each of the city’s Universities and has a slew of worldwide group shows and exhibitions on an already impressive CV. This month she prepares her new solo show at Workplace Gallery in Newcastle.

As an artist-led curatorial project, Workplace is renowned for supporting emerging artists, Rachel explains how she began working with the gallery. “Laura [Rachel’s twin sister and also a painter] and I had a joint show in Workplace in London and that went really well so they took me on as an artist.” Contributing work to group exhibitions is one thing, but this exhibition is a completely new body of work, Rachel explains her process around figuring out how to use the space. “I try not to force things too much, I tend to select images I’m drawn to and then a theme often emerges out of that thought process. Like music, there’s often a mood rather than anything else.” As explanations go this is very apt when you see her paintings up close, created out of “many, many thin layers of paint” giving them an otherworldly feel.

It’s in the edit, alongside the ethereal paint layers, that the intrigue of the images comes to the fore. They play with scale, they’re also coy sometimes about revealing too much, or just enough. “There’s a conversation to be had with the viewer.” Rachel says. Asking yourself, where am I? What’s this? And if you don’t ask yourself too many questions then it almost feels like it’s not working.”

I tend to select images I’m drawn to and then a theme often emerges out of that thought process. Like music, there’s often a mood rather than anything else

Rachel explains about being met head on by her paintings. “There’s been more of an appetite for painting in recent years, which is good.” Trends and vagaries of fashion aside the ‘physicality of Rachel’s paintings, their defined authorship, updating tradition and composition hold an inherent power.

The “intriguing, unsettling and ambiguous” nature of the images and editing process is lengthy. She explains: “It starts by taking literally hundreds of photos and that gets narrowed down…then I’m left with around a hundred and fifty, that then get narrowed down further. Working out which would be good images and would work together for this exhibition. It’s a gut feeling.”

As with all artistic endeavours there’s no empirical answer to why a thing is the way it is. It can be based on, as Rachel says further, “colours – that red would look great painted for instance. Or an atmosphere. I’ll also play with the crop of the image and find the best look, the potential mystery of it.” There’s also an entire, unseen charcoal drawing and planning process of the chosen images that allows more scrutiny and a last-minute omission if necessary.

Find out which paintings have made the cut and witness their tingling mystery in person.

Rachel Lancaster’s exhibition runs at Workplace Gallery, Newcastle from Saturday 25th November–Saturday 23rd December.

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