Execute Magazine, interview

Rebecca Fontaine-Wolf

 

www.rebeccafontaine-wolf.com

 

  1. Can you tell us about yourself? Do you consider yourself as a German or English artist?

If I had to choose I would probably consider myself more of an English artist, as I have ben living in the UK for around 17 years now. I think a better description would be that I consider myself a European artist. Both my German and English heritage comes into play when I think about both my identity and the artistic influences which have shaped my work.

 

  1. What has been your greatest obstacle and greatest achievement as a painter so far?

Difficult question to answer, and it depends on whether I answer this from the perspective of ‘painting career’ or ‘painting practice’. In terms of practice, I would say that my greatest obstacle is being overly critical of my work whilst simultaneously struggling to move too far out of my artistic comfort zone.  My greatest achievement would probably be the entire body of work I created for my last solo show. It was the largest show I’ve had both in terms of the number of works and the space I had to display these. The ideas and concepts I began with developed organically through the process of painting. I pushed myself further in terms of the scale of the paintings, as well as bridging the figurative and abstract elements, so that all the different elements came together in what I felt was a cohesive body of work.

In terms of painting career, I think the biggest obstacle is probably confidence in presenting myself rather than my work; something I think a lot of artists struggle with. Finding that balance between being very insular on the one side, looking inwards to create the work, spending most of the time working alone and then being expected to almost perform in public; to promote and sell yourself both to gallery owners and clients. The biggest achievement would probably be that I’m able to paint full time and continue to progress as an artist.

 

  1. What is painting for you? What materials do you use to produce your paintings?

My basic materials consist of oils, inks, acrylics and pastels on linen canvas, but I really enjoy experimenting with new materials and media and seeing how they interact with each other. Over the years I’ve experimented with resins and crystals such as salt and allum, as well as working on different supports such as wood, perspex and chiffon.

Painting really is my primary form of expression. I don’t tend to make preliminary sketches, but instead I go straight in with the paint. I feel drawn to all kinds of different forms of painting: from very geometric, clean works; to loose, textured, expressionistic painting; to the very delicate, figurative work of the old masters or the pre-raphaelites for example. There is so much that one can achieve with this medium, and I think this constant pull between these opposing styles is something which comes through in my work.

 

  1. Could you tell us about London? How has London shaped you as an artist?

London really is an incredibly vibrant and diverse city, and as such it has so much to offer in terms of visual and cultural inspiration. Being in a very urban environment has definitely had an effect of my artistic style. Especially early on, a lot of friends doing street art and the texture of peeling billboards and encrusted walls found a direct way into my work. The galleries here have of course also shaped me, again in terms of artistic inspiration but also just in terms of experiencing working with galleries and art dealers here in London. There are so many opportunities to show your work and meet other artists, and I don’t think I would have become a VP to the Society of women artists had it not been for living in London. I think most of all though, as someone whose entire practice is based around the human form, the diversity of the people of London has been the most inspiring element of living here.

 

  1. Tell us a bit about your daily routine, what does your day look like?

As with most artists I’m sure, it varies greatly. There are certain times when I’m preparing to start a new body of work when I might be doing a lot of research or reading, to other times when I’m in the full flow of painting in the studio, to times when I have to spend time doing admin or working on the computer. Generally though I would try to start my day doing some exercise, and really only get going properly after an early lunch. When I start a new series or body of work I generally like to focus purely on that for a while. This means I have to get all admin and other task out of the way, so that I can shut myself off from other distractions; often not really leaving the house for quite some time, as my studio is in my home; and only changing from my pyjamas to my painting clothes and back again. I also find that once I’ve completed a body of work – such as after my last show – I need to take a break from the studio for a few weeks before I’m ready to return.

 

6. What inspires you to paint?

It often begins with a vague idea or concept, sometimes from something I’ve seen or read; like a seed beginning to germinate which then becomes more formed through the actual act of painting.

 

  1. What are your portraits about?

In all honesty I think discovering exactly what they are about is a journey I will be on for the duration of my painting practice. In a general sense the female form acts as a primary barer of meaning in my work; a vehicle though which to explore themes of identity and mortality within the framework of figurative painting. Making art to me is a little like dreaming. It comes from a place which you can’t quite put into words adequately, and as soon as you think you’ve fully pinned its meaning down it begins to shift and evade you again. It reveals itself to you through the process of painting, or viewing a piece, and these meanings aren’t static but changing. The same painting can seem quite different to me from one day to the next.

 

8. Tell us about your subject matter and how it changes over time?

As just mentioned, the core subject matter of my work is centred around female identity, mortality and desire, and I think this has always been the case. Over time, I have come to understand that the female form has always been a way of exploring these ideas and in many ways the images of mythological female characters I used to draw as a child have evolved and turned into my current practice.  These early fantastic, explorations into idealised female identity represented the beginnings of how the female form became the focal point for meaning in my work.

As I have grown up and my practice has evolved, the theme of death and mortality has moved ever closer to the foreground, and the tradition of vanitas paintings has largely informed my work.

 

9. When did you decide to become an artists?

My mother is an artist, a portrait painter to be exact, and although I always wanted to have a creative career I was more interested in doing design when I began studying, as it seemed more secure to me. So even when I changed from my Packaging design BA to Fine Art at University I was very resistant to the idea of becoming an artist. It was only about a year after I had left university and was working in a large gallery/museum that I realised I was very unhappy not painting, and decided to dedicate myself to becoming an artist.

 

10. What is your next project or exhibition?

The next exhibition I will be in is the ‘Good Nature’ exhibition at Candida Stevens Fine Art in which 31 contemporary British artists have made one piece on the theme of good nature ‘a celebration of our planet, it’s beauty and it’s fragility, and the essential part we all play in preserving it’. I have been lucky enough to get to paint Caroline Lucas MP of the Green Party for this exhibition and am really looking forward to showing this piece alongside some of the amazing artists in this exhibition.

As well as group shows and fairs the next big project I will be working on will be the body of work for my upcoming solo show beginning of 2018.

 

  1. What is the future of painting in your opinion?

Personally I think painting will always be on of the primary mediums for fine art despite the rise in multimedia art because just like drawing it is universally accessible. You don’t need expensive materials to paint, and you don’t need to understand any specific computer programmes or have access to any specialist equipment and because there is something very direct and physical about the act of painting.

As mentioned before the range of possibilities of what you can achieve with paint is so wide that I don’t really see how it could ever cease to be an exciting medium to work with or experience. I do have a feeling that there is a slight turn back towards traditional painting craft or skill, and I think seeing the ways in which this is taken forward and incorporated will be very exciting.