Our August Manc of the Month is the lovely Rachael Addis! We’ve always loved Rachael’s work here at Cotton On MCR, and we’ve been lucky enough to have her work on display at our recent ‘In Manchester’ exhibition. We were delighted to speak to Rachael all about her practice, her day-to-day life, and future plans. Read on to find out more!
Cotton On MCR: Please Introduce yourself and your work to the Cotton On MCR Readers
Rachael Addis: ‘I am a contemporary painter based at Rogue Artists’ studios in Manchester. My practice is fundamentally a mark making process, I create abstract landscapes by applying a multitude of paint layers and patterns to the canvas. My personal biography has had an important inspiration on the process, colours and aesthetic of my work. Originally from the Lake District I lived in Hong Kong and Thailand for my formative years. Zen Buddhism and its influence on abstract expressionist painters in the 1950’s underpins the philosophy behind the techniques used to create my work.’
‘My current paintings seek to establish a contemplative and meditative aspect both for the viewer and for myself. I use unconventional processes to create my paintings, abandoning paintbrushes for found and recycled materials such as discarded fragments of toys, bottle tops, pieces of plastic and sticks. My paintings have a deep connection to the beauty within our environment and are often intentionally reminiscent to geographic landscapes.’
‘I studied BA in Fine Art at Manchester Metropolitan University and then progressed onto the MA programme at The Royal Academy of Arts Schools, London. I am a lecturer in Fine art at UCEN Manchester, following a break from painting I seriously began to paint again in 2018. Recently I was a featured artist on the BBC documentary about the Royal Academy summer exhibition. As a re-emerging artist I have recently exhibited in a number of solo and group shows across the UK and have been shortlisted for the Gemini Art Prize. My work is held in both private and public collections.’
COM: Your paintings are so dynamic and full of energy, what influences your work the most?
RA: ‘I am a compulsive and obsessive painter! Once I begin mark-making sometimes I just can’t stop until the piece is finished. I often find myself painting dots in the middle of the night! I find I have a human connection with act of painting and through the act of repetition I create a kind of visual poetry within the works often subconsciously.’
COM: What challenges have you come across during your painting career?
RA: I would describe being an artists as a rollercoaster journey. You can have really good weeks where you might be selected for an exhibition or you might sell a piece of work and you can also have lows where you might not got selected or you aren’t happy with the work you create. As a re-emerging artist my moto is “Keep going! And Don’t give up!” If you keep creating and do what you love then the work will speak for you and eventually enable the recognition it deserves.’
COM: Do you have a particular landscape/seascape that you like to paint?
RA: ‘At present I am really pushing the boundaries of my practice and I’m experimenting with a range of concepts within my work. This includes pure abstract pieces and more landscape based pieces. Not one piece of my work is the same.’
‘I create my canvas based pieces in 3 different stages:
MESSY STAGE : The messy stage in the studio where I create a kind of base layer / structure to the work normally with acrylic paints and spray paints.
MARK MAKING ZONE : The calming detailed stage which I often work on at home where I add layers of intricate pattern and marks to the surface of the canvas (this stage often takes hours and I stay up into the early hours immersed in mark-making).
FINAL STAGE : The reflective final stage where I take the paintings back to the studio and reflect on their success and resolve any areas’
COM: What is one of your favourite pieces/series and why?
RA: ‘It’s important to say here that I often work on 3 or 4 paintings at once. I may do one layer of one painting then move onto the next whilst the other is drying. There are a few paintings that I am particularly proud of:
Installation : Last June I created a 6 metre long installation piece. I love working on a big scale and feel like the end result of the work is that you can become completely lost in an abstract landscape. I also love the fact that I have only used monochrome.
‘Cooee’ – a recent painting that has been shortlisted for the Gemini Art Prize. The painting has been created purely out of dots. I would describe it as a visual “Zing!” The patterns and colours are singing in a visual harmony.
‘Meditation of the Deep’ – I created a series of works similar to this experimenting with spherical canvases as well as rectangular. The fragility and beauty of the ocean has always been inspiring to my practice. These paintings have over 6 layers of patterns and I really enjoyed creating them and love the shimmering effects created.’
COM: After taking a break from painting, what brought you back into the art practise?
RA: ‘Following my MA in 2003 I was an artist in London for a few years and completed a couple of residencies. In reflection I listened to the powers that be too much! And caved in to the pressure to get “a normal job!”. Luckily I absolutely love teaching and my family. However, in 2019 my students had an exhibition at the project space in Rogue Artist Studios. Driving home I had this overwhelming moment of reflection and said to myself ”What are you doing?! You’re talented! You went to the Royal Academy! Why on earth are you not painting!”. That evening I contacted David Gledhill, the director of Rogue, and acquired a studio for the summer. The freedom and relief I felt from that first day back painting was amazing. I had no idea what I was going to create after a 15 year break so started by creating over 100 drawings and collages on paper. I soon found that fundamentals of the practice I established during my Master programme came back to me and are just as important to my practice now as they were in 2000. My message to all artists is “don’t give up!” and even if you do for a short while you will always have your creativity and it will re-emerge in some form or other.’
COM: Are there any future exhibitions or projects you’re working on that you’re excited about?
RA: ‘At the moment I’m applying for absolutely everything! Including residences, competitions and exhibitions. Two years back into practice I am really proud of my achievements, but feel there is still a lot more I would like to do. I have met some really interesting artists recently and we are in discussions about exhibiting together and future collaborations. I’m also going to be on TV again soon but can’t tell you the details until nearer the time. I have big ambitions for my paintings. Landscape is becoming more significant in recent work and I’m looking forward to the direction this takes me.’
COM: What do you think of Manchester’s art scene?
RA: ‘Manchester is a brilliant place to be as an artist. I found a brilliant community of supportive and like-minded artists across Manchester. Instagram has been instrumental in connecting me with some incredible people. I have found that if you ask people are always keen to help and support. Comme ca Art and Saul Hay Gallery have been really supportive. Being at Rogue Studios is also amazing. There are over 90- artists there and it’s so inspiring to see other artists succeed in their careers.’
COM: If you aren’t painting, what other hobbies/interests do you have?
RA: ‘I have a two boys aged 9 and 12 so they keep me on my toes when I’m not painting or teaching. Over the years I have got quite good at multi-tasking and have only just begun to realise the importance of having time to yourself. My parents still live in the Lake District so I spend quite a lot of time there. I love walking and being at one with nature.’
COM: If you could live in any piece of artwork, what would it be and why?
RA: ‘It would have to be in a Yayoi Kusama art work. I absolutely adore her mesmerising immersive and obsessive installations and spaces. Kusama has been a huge influence on me ever since I began painting I feel a real connection to her work both in the processes she uses to create it but also in its psychedelic nature. Saying this living in one of her works would be a crazy place to live! I might need to pop out every so often and immerse myself in a calmer art world like a fused East-meets-West landscape of Gordon Chung or a vast Monet Waterlilies painting.’