We love the artilicious paintings of Rebecca Pierce, a versatile Australian fashion designer turned artist. Her bold artworks bursting with vibrant colours, allures the viewer to own her works. A journey from being a Fashion Designer to a full time Artist is what we want to uncover today. Rebecca tells us what it was like to be a Fashion Designer, and after 20 years of Fashion, how she turned to her journey with art.
Rebecca, what was it like being in the fashion industry for twenty years and what drove your journey towards art?
I was burnt out, it is not an exciting story at all.
After twenty years of designing, facilitating production, wholesaling, marketing, licensing and retailing t-shirts, bags, umbrellas, kids clothing, and a myriad of other products I needed a break. From the age of eighteen I barely stopped to take a breath. The eighties and nineties were an incredibly exciting time to be in the fashion industry.
The eighties in particular was colour on steroids. There were few boundaries as to the type of product that could be adorned with what would be considered today as loud and brash eye-popping designs. To create the designs, I worked on paper in black and white marking the areas of colour by code. The computer design programs at that time were very rudimentary so I did everything by hand. It was a very structured way of working and you would need to visualise the end result.
At the twenty-year mark I had four young children and if I wanted to spend more time at home I needed a vocation that would enable that, so I attempted to teach myself to paint. I have no tertiary education. I was accepted into law and architecture but neither were paths that I was passionate about following. I gave myself two years, I parked all the IP and trademarks and everything that was running to give myself a break. I started to work on how to approach painting on a canvas because I did not have a clue at all, I had always worked in black and white, it was incredibly different and a new and exciting challenge. I was so very fortunate that a couple of galleries took me on and it went from there. I now have been painting for about eighteen years.
In changing careers what were some of the challenges you faced?
The one thing I did notice was when I started it was a negative to declare that my background was in design. I would conceal this to the point of calling myself Rebecca Pierce rather than Bec Pierce which is what I was known as and also the name of the clothing and accessories brand. Today design and fine art are equally respected.
Your works deal with a lot of medium and texture, please tell us a little bit more about what you do and why.
I don’t even know why I have such a constant need for texture and layering. I do love the dense quality of thick paint it is so lush and tactile and especially in saturated colours.
I dislike brush marks on the surface of a work so using palette knives avoids this. I often incorporate a diverse mix of medium within each work, product such as impasto, oil sticks, inks, charcoal, resins, sand, acrylic beads and found objects, this diversity also provides the opportunity to utilise a large range of tools.
In fashion I worked with a great deal of high key colour it is not dissimilar in my artworks.
My work often features stipples, tiny generally uniform in size dots, I have a hang up with dots and everything ends up, and again I don’t know why, but adorned and connected by dots.
An artists’ trip to the Glass House Mountains was your first encounter with plein air painting, how has this affected your ongoing works?
I was very scared as I had not experienced painting plein air.
The artists I accompanied were seasoned in this practice and knew exactly what they were doing and were well prepared. I reverted to my comfort zone with paper and pens, on the third day I relaxed and became more in tune with my surroundings, I started to pick up the earth and mix it with water and incorporate a little with paint into the sketches.
I returned home after about three or four days with a pile of dirty paper covered in markings. It was so exciting bringing this starting point into the studio and it informed a departure and an entirely new body of works on paper, I was back in my comfort zone I had returned to my roots. My time in the fashion industry working on paper had come full circle.
What are the main themes that you deal with in your works?
Like the diversity that I relish with medium and tools, I love the opportunity to work across a range of subjects. From landscapes, to portraiture, bowls of flowers to beach scenes each offer the chance to explore further and often one will inform the other.
I have in the past two years venture into the realm of sculpture. This started from collecting, drying and twisting the excess medium that would often fall off my paintings. As I dislike waste, broken chairs and tools, fabrics and plastics would be carefully selected and incorporated into the three-dimensional works. I have recently started to work with photography, I really enjoy the challenge of new things and the hurdles being by inability and willingness to learn and adapt, which also creates some very interesting fails!
You recently made the finals of the 2020 Percival Painting Portrait Prize and the Percival Photographic Portrait Prize, tell us a little bit more about this.
I was so excited when I found out I was selected as a finalist in these prizes. In particular because of the subject matter. The painting is of my youngest son and the photographic work is of my daughter, the two works are going to be travelling together up to Queensland to the Perc Tucker Regional Gallery for the final judging. I am loving portraiture at the moment and I am marrying a multitude of mediums together whilst working across a range of genres in this subject.
You are represented by galleries both in Australia and Internationally but you also have your own gallery in Sydney, tell us more about this.
The name of the gallery is Traffic Jam Galleries and it opened nearly 10 years ago.
It was born really out of frustration. The galleries I had been with were absolutely wonderful to me but the frustration was from the fact that when you would have an exhibition, the exhibition would be for an allocated period and when over your works, if anything remained, were relegated to the stockroom or you would have to remove them off site and they came home. Your exposure then ended until you took part in another exhibition.
What I wanted was a gallery that was divided, that the facility was there to produce rolling solo, thematic or small artist group exhibitions on one side and on the other side of the gallery have constantly changing mixed exhibitions, so that an artist’s work or a small body of works always had some semblance of exposure. In doing this I also had built an easy to glide racking system that features up to a hundred works that a client can easily operate and view, thus traffic jam galleries was born.
How are you dealing with the current COVID-19 situation as a gallery and as an artist?
It is such an unknown quantity for everyone, part of the battle is we do not have an end date. Everyone’s doors are closed and we are all trying to work more on a virtual and digital level, it is also quite surreal.
One thing is I am getting a lot of painting and sculpting done and looking positively towards the end of the year and the art fairs and exhibitions that I am slated to be a part of.
I believe it is making us work with other tools that we had not considered working with or maybe not bringing on board as early as we have. It is forcing our hand in a way that is challenging, surprising and fulfilling, but at the same time you know you have so much going on externally on a world-wide level with so many unknowns that is just not positive.
The gallery is reaching out with alternate modes of engagement and responses and sales are continuing and building.
So what is next for you Rebecca?
Next for me, middle of the year I am part of a two-artist exhibition titled ‘Coastal’ and towards the end of the year a thematic exhibition based on portraiture with six artists, both at traffic jam galleries. There are also overseas art fairs to prepare for.
For 2021 a number of exhibitions in Australia and overseas and looking more into reprising some of the fashion, art and design on bags, shirts, umbrellas and the like.
That’s probably it and a lot of work in the gallery upstairs !
Thank you for sending us the video of our conversations and taking time to take us through your vibrant story and the studio.
Rebecca’s work delves into an apparent overlay and pursues a line of gradual and bold transformations from fashion designing to the art world, creating a genre of her imminent textures. We at Conversations@StudioID wish her more colourful adventures in her art passages and look forward to seeing her new collections soon.