With abstract paintings covering a multitude of human experiences and emotions, Rachel Howard’s work has been critically acclaimed around the world. Now this celebrated British painter to show new work at Hastings’ Jerwood Gallery.
Now, Howard has created an exhibition of new works – Rachel Howard: At Sea – executed over the past 24 months with Jerwood Gallery in mind, which will be on display there until Sun 4 Oct.
Navigating between the abstract and the figurative, Rachel Howard’s paintings explore the fragility of the human condition; examining the complexity of our emotional spectrum. A significant body of new work has been created specifically for this exhibition, in part drawing parallels between the coastal location of the gallery and memories of Howard’s childhood home.
Born in County Durham, Howard graduated from London’s Goldsmiths College in 1992. She was awarded the Prince’s Trust Award in 1992, shortlisted for the Jerwood Drawing Prize in 2004 and received the British Council Award in 2008. “I grew up on a farm near the sea on the North East coast of England,” Howard said. “Having a permanent horizon every day to look at gives a wonderful reassurance in what can be at times a very uncertain world. My show at the Jerwood explores both these aspects of certainty and uncertainty.”
These opposing viewpoints are expressed through tension between subject matter and the physicality of her painting process. Often working on four or five pieces simultaneously, she applies her colours, lets them rest, then disturbs them with turpentine, varnishes, or successive layers of paint, a process she refers to as ‘unpicking’ the painting – a push and pull between control and relinquishing control.
Over a dozen new paintings, ranging from large-scale canvases to smaller works, shift the accepted rules of how the medium of oil paint is approached. Surfaces feel as if they are disintegrating or unstable, with gestural interference unsettling previously pristine layers of paint. Works such as Lean To, North, and You Can Save Me draw on maritime themes to investigate the sense of being at odds with the world. Internal psychological states of being ‘at sea’ are suggested, as abstracted images encourage a sense of drift and uncertainty.
Also on display is Rachel Howard’s Selection from the Jerwood Collection, a two room display of works curated by Howard from the gallery’s ollection. Rachel Howard: At Sea forms part of the larger summer Festival of the Sea, which includes exhibitions of work by Quentin Blake and Lowry.
Rachel Howard: At Sea is on show at Hastings’ Jerwood Gallery until Sun 4 Oct, 2015.