‘We are all influenced in so many ways, continually perceiving and translating our existence.’
This time, for ‘Under the Spotlight’ we have been talking to Rebecca McCardle, whose photography based fine art is both thought provoking and intriguing. She uses everyday textiles in her photograms to produce off kilter images that are both familiar and yet extraordinary.
Do you have positive/negative memories of art when you were at school?
When I was at primary school I remember being fascinated with the computer paper that we used to draw on in class. It came in perforated sheets with pale green stripes on the back and small holes down either side of the paper, there was a crispness about the paper that I loved and I would spend hours folding and manipulating the sheets to make booklets with secret compartments to fill with special things. Looking back to preoccupations like this I can now see that the interest in the inherent qualities of materials and objects has always been within me. At secondary school I loved art lessons but didn’t have any confidence in my own abilities, bottled Evian water was trendy at the time and I drew a fantastic representation that I remember being very pleased with. I don’t remember much else about the art lessons and I failed to take art at GCSE level, those guiding me believed that art wasn’t a feasible career choice for anyone and I duly followed their advice, much to my regret.
What would your school report have said about your art?
My school was pretty rubbish when it came to anything creative, the textiles department had the potential to be exciting but the teacher was more interested in homemaking skills than anything contemporary and at that point my teenage life I was more concerned about styling and fashion. We ran fashion competitions and I designed an outfit that was modelled by my best friend with netting underskirt and tartan held together by a huge elastic belt, a wining outfit! I don’t think events like these even made it on to the school report.
Did you go on to further education in art or are you self-taught?
I went to sixth form college to study A levels but was very unhappy and knew by that point that I had made a terrible mistake not taking art at GCSE. I had meetings with the college who were very unhelpful and in the end I left.
My mother and grandmother were upholsterers by trade and I vividly remember the excitement of visiting haberdashery stores. I loved all the fabrics and yarns and my childhood was spent making, stitching and sewing. A lot of the skills I have are self-taught as my formal art education only began five years ago when I started an Art and Design foundation course at Northbrook College. My intention had been to go on to the textiles and surface design degree because this was what I knew. After a six-year stint in retail, working for Monsoon Accessorise I was well versed in colour stories and commercial design, however, along the way my ideas and concerns developed strongly towards Fine Art. I wouldn’t have been ready for this earlier and I had a weird sense of clarity. A lot of the techniques and processes I use in my work are self-taught but what I have been educated in is an understanding of Fine Art practice.
What or who has inspired you over the years?
We are all influenced in so many ways, continually perceiving and translating our existence. Inspiration for me comes in many forms, running on the South Downs always helps me to process the whirlwind of thoughts and disjointed ideas in my head, critical theory drives a lot of my practice as does work by artists that provoke strong responses. For instance, I didn’t particularly like Damien Hirst’s work, I thought it was crass. All I knew was what was scandalised in the press and it wasn’t until I actually experienced his work at the RA that I understood how very clever, relevant and informed his works are.
What Artists do you admire?
My work is object related and I admire artists whose work makes me see things differently, the re-presentations of objects in simple ways works powerfully on me. Marcel Duchamp, Meret Oppenheim, Cornelia Parker, Fischli and Weiss, Graham Harman, Walter Benjamin, Vilem Flusser, Adam Fuss, Ryan Gander, Katie Paterson and Abraham Cruzvillega are a few of the people whose work I have been drawn to and admire.
What is your favourite piece of work (yours and someone else)?
I find it very tricky to be objective about my work when I’m still close to it, I need to have distance and time to be able to see it objectively. I rarely feel like a piece is fully complete, it is just another part of an ongoing process of inquiry.
One of my favourite pieces of work is Son et Lumiere (Le rayon vert) by Fischli and Weiss, named after the optical phenomena sometimes seen on the horizon at sunset. The selection and presentation of everyday objects simply yet powerfully articulates the abstract phenomena.
What has been the highlight of your artistic career so far? What are you proud to have achieved?
I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to study at degree level and that I have had such inspiring and encouraging teaching on my journey.
What have you sacrificed for your art?
My art practice has impacted positively on my life and that of my family, studying at degree level has helped me to understand the guidance and support my own children need with their own studies and has given me a platform to understand and develop my own practice, no sacrifice.
What’s the best bit of advice that has been given to you?
A piece of work exists independently of the author, interpreted by the viewer. The viewer makes meaning.
What advice would you give to an aspiring artist/craftsperson?
There is a difference between being a commercial artist and a Fine Artist, I am still working out how to move on as a functioning Fine Artist.
How do you start a piece of work?
I feel that my practice is part of an ongoing inquiry, when I look back at earlier sketchbooks the seeds of ideas can be seen years before, I don’t see a beginning or an end.
When is it finished?
See above answer.
Do you have a mantra, quote or line from a song that best sums up what your art means to you?
Does music help with your creativity? If so what would you choose to listen to whilst working on a piece?
I often have BBC 6 music on while I work depending on what I’m doing, but ideas generally come to me when I’m in a more meditative state when I’m running, swimming or lying in the bath and I can let my mind wander uninterrupted.
What is your favourite medium to work with/in?
I use the medium most appropriate to the idea and find that accident and experimentation often lead in the most interesting directions.
Do you have a lucky or favourite something that you use that has been with you forever?
My mother’s sewing machine.
Are you living your dream through your art or do you have one – what do you strive for?
Enjoying the moment.
Is there anything you avoid with your art?
Thank you Rebecca, it has been a real education to talk to you, we look forward to seeing your work at the Northbrook Degree show, St Paul’s in Worthing and at East Beach Studios over the Worthing Art Trail.