PROFILE: Rene McBrearty | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Rene McBrearty is a black queer woman artist. That’s how she self-identifies, for living as a black queer woman in contemporary society is what inspires and informs her art.

“I’m not Beyoncé,” Rene admits with a laugh. “She’s the one you’re taught to be, according to society. I love Beyoncé, but I could never be her. Through my work, I’m figuring out who I am in this world.”

Rene draws on her own experiences and those of friends and family to explore the subtle, hidden prejudices that still exist in society today, “that feeling of being looked at constantly and judged and hypersexualised that never really goes away.”

Working part time for the Library Service in Newcastle, Rene relies on commissions, such as the Berwick Film Festival and Circa Projects, to show her work. She becomes fixated by a phrase that’s stuck in her head, e.g. ‘bite your tongue’, and sits with it a while. She goes deep with the phrase, taking her time to let it take root, until a loose script emerges followed by drawings and sculptures inspired by individual words in the script. The drawings lead her into a whole new story depicting memories and feelings; the sculptures are instinct-based, integrated into the ensuing film as a part of the costumes. Rene is drawn to work with clay, loving the feel of it, how it changes and responds to the touch.

We all know what it is to feel looked at and judged

Having stayed in the North East after graduating in Fine Art from Newcastle University in 2015. “I love the atmosphere in the North East in general and found the local art scene welcoming and easy to fit in to. I was excited by what was going on in the area and wanted to stay.” She explains. Alongside fellow artist Jill McKnight at The NewBridge Project, Rene will be exploring LIFE/WORK/PLAY through drawing, sculpture and film from Saturday 18th August until Sunday 9th September.

On this occasion, Rene is directing, not performing, which allows her to take a step back and consider the work as a whole. She’s delighted to be filming at Cheeseburn Sculpture Gardens in a 19th century school room in Northumberland with three local black women as they explore How to Remove a Single Strand Knot, a battle black women regularly face with their hair. It’s the inevitability of it all that fascinates Rene, that constant irritation, that ongoing struggle, which of course runs far deeper than simply hair.

Rene’s work is deeply cathartic and personal, but she aspires for more than that: “It’s all about raising awareness, opening up the conversation…and actually, everyone can identify with these resonating themes of identity and belonging. We all know what it is to feel looked at and judged.”

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