'STOP, LOOK, LISTEN, FEEL' Affordable Art Fair with Artist Rebecca Byrne
Platform Projects section featured 5 exciting artists, with immersive stand-out works and installations. For the first time, the Affordable Art Fair Battersea appointed an external curator for the Platform Projects. Becca Pelly-Fry, Head Curator at arts hub Elephant West, invited 5 artists from differing disciplines. Works by the contributing artists were themed around the ideas of place, memory, and how we relate to our environment.
Interview with artist Rebecca Byrne
Rebecca Byrne was Chicago, USA and currently lives and works in London. Inspired by Japanese paintings and Fusuma interiors, Byrne’s maze-like installations explore both the idea of personal space and memory. The viewer can interact with the work by entering the installation, the painted interiors feel uncannily occupied with familiarity and uncertainty.
AF: What’s the focus of your practice, and the medium/scale you work in?
The overarching concern in my work is an exploration of interiority and the psychological impact of space. In particular, my interest lies in the architecture and decorative details of spaces that people animate, the traces left behind in abandoned and re-purposed spaces and thresholds into fantastical places that cannot exist. Working in acrylic and oil paint on paper and canvas, I create physical spaces for the viewer to enter which are site-specific but also imbued with a subtle personal narrative.
Often working on rolls of paper nine meters long and in a gestural manner, the marks move along and up the surface and leave a sense of presence in the physicality of their making. This contrasts with the paintings on canvas that are layered on top of and placed alongside the paper work in a manner referencing collage, furthering an immersive sensation of painting.
In the last year my installations have grown in size and scale; for example, one blanketed the gallery by wrapping it entirely with a large painting on paper and another painting was a 4.5M high suspended room, roughly the same size of my childhood bedroom. My work is transformed a bit each time it is shown because I respond to the space it is being presented in and I hope to see the work change slightly, taking on the character of the place it sits and creating a new version of itself every time. The opportunity for reinvention in painting intrigues me and drives my practice.
AF: Tell us about your project for the Platform Projects at AAF Battersea?
My work for the Platform Projects space at the Affordable Art Fair grew from the residency I just completed at PADA Studios in Barreiro, Portugal; Barreiro has a rich industrial history and sits just across the river from Lisbon’s city centre. The studios are located in a sprawling former worker’s estate and Barreiro’s past is revealed in the surreal terrain of decaying brutalist architecture from abandoned manufacturing facilities and the plant life that fights its way through the concrete and debris. The residency opened up a new thread in my practice and the work made there, ‘Fusuma’, alludes to my growing interest in exterior spaces.
‘Fusuma’ is a painting installation that references both my interest in Japanese architecture, and the well-known paper screens that form Japanese interiors, and my walks through secure areas of Barreiro not accessible to the public where the landscape grows wild, influenced by the soil and neglect it thrives in. Fusuma walls are typically painted with traditional scenes from nature on opaque paper and used for room partitions and doors; similarly, my painting of Barreiro’s wild and strange landscape was framed and installed as walls and doors for the viewer to travel through. The painting also had a maze-like quality and it was interesting for me to watch how the visitors interacted with the work.
AF: Whats next? Any upcoming projects?
‘Capitulo I’, Auditorio Municipal Augusto Cabrita, Barreiro, Portugal
‘Fools Gold’, Roulote - Projectos Artísticos, Barreiro and Lisbon, Portugal
‘The Nomenclature of Colour’, The Slade Research Centre, London, UK co-curated by Jo Volley and Stephanie Nebbia, March 2019
Hospital Rooms presents work from the artists who worked on The Woodlands Unit, Ipswich NHS, at The Waterfront Gallery, June 2019