Rachael Reeves’ paintings have been described as ‘visual resolutions which attempt to make sense of her own fragmented experience,’ and, in extension, the multifaceted experience of the viewer.
The stasis and time afforded by the covid-19 pandemic enabled Reeves to observe her immediate surroundings. She began to look at the interior spaces of her home both appreciatively and for its formal qualities: the intersection of line, the shape of objects, and the filtration of light in her Newlyn house began to visually preoccupy the artist. Reeves says, ‘I became interested in manipulating the space and forms and found that the paintings began to imbue a sense of displacement, disorientation, and fragmentation.’ This reflects the dislocation, uncertainty, and elastic nature of time experienced throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Reeves describes her paintings as ‘visual soundscapes;’ their fragmented nature describing the reality of experience. Reeves is interested in the way we see: the continual movement of our heads and the shifting of our eyes renders fixed, linear perspective as a “false” way of looking. Each layered fragment or interrupted object acts as a separate segment of seeing, experienced in a snapped second. Reeves transcribes the true, shifting, dismantled experience of looking in her paintings, allowing the viewer to inhabit her work.
The artist is interested in the tipping point between figuration and abstraction. Her emergent process has been born through a long-term interest in connecting disparate imagery; connecting paintings together to create new tensions and relationships, much like collage. Reeves states, ‘I realised that this came from a desire to split the spaces and realities within an image,’ which is now transposed in paint onto singular surfaces.
There is something dramatic about Reeves’ interrogation of light. The bold chiaroscuro of her paintings presents each interior as a kind of theatrical stage set. Each piece features directional lighting from “off stage,” leading the viewer’s eye around the picture plane, as well as introducing a psychological optimism to the sombre-coloured spaces. This external light acts as an interchange between the interior and the exterior, which have been the artists primary sources of interest throughout her artistic career. By combining them in this way, Reeves amalgamates and infuses the stillness of the family interior, with the space and light of the exterior landscape.
Alongside this preoccupation with fragmentation, is an appreciation for stillness. The spaces and objects which Reeves offers up are intimate ones, distilled in personal, familial history. Although Reeves’ palette is earthy and grounded, these paintings are not necessary melancholy. They are more totems of quiet, purveying the sense of a room just left or about to be entered.