What is memory? How is it triggered, and can that be expressed through painting? Talented Cheshire artist Rebecca Eastment poses these intriguing questions in her latest exhibition at Art My Treasure gallery in Wilmslow. It’s her third show, having previously exhibited at the Old Trueman Brewery in East London and a gallery in Oxford. Our art critic Malcolm Storer went to investigate.Rebecca Eastment
I met the shy, sensitive 25 year old Rebecca in her studio at her parent’s home in Wilmslow. I asked her about the paintings. “They developed out of the story of my Italian grandmother. Towards the end of her life she became ill with cancer. Before she died mum and I went to visit her in hospital in Scotland. I remember walking down a long corridor with a window at the end. Suddenly I caught sight of my gran behind the glass. As she turned to look at me I saw how the disease had ravaged her body. This threw up a myriad of contrasting emotions — I knew her yet I didn’t know her, and because of the corridor I felt both near and far.Rebecca talks to Malcolm Storer
It got me thinking about the physical distance between ourselves and our memories. The corridor is a big thing in my work. It’s a kind of limbo, a space between two spaces. You can move forward or back, it’s up to you. There’s also a window in the paintings; it pushes forward yet recedes into the distance. Personally it’s a physical explanation of what I felt the moment I saw my gran. What I want these paintings to do is trigger memories in the viewer.”
There are six large works in total — oil on board. Their muted colours draw you in, leading the eye through a mysterious window into a void of echoing spaces. Powerful stuff, and beautifully executed. They’re reminiscent of the work of Mark Rothko.
Rebecca always wanted to be an artist. After winning a drawing competition at the Lowry while still at school she went on to study fine art at Oxford, gaining a first.
Then the real world came crashing in.
“When I arrived back from Oxford I wanted to get a job in a museum or an art gallery. But even with a first-class degree I struggled. I worked for about a year in bars and restaurants around Wilmslow. My partner and I moved in with my parents, which allowed me to do an MA in Museum and Art Gallery Studies. At the moment — as well as painting — I work three days a week as a curatorial assistant at Manchester Art Gallery. This involves the restoration and provenance of paintings, giving lectures on the artists in the gallery, as well as researching ceramics, furniture and silver. I’m also a tour guide at Adlington Hall. I take people round and tell them about the paintings.”
I asked Rebecca about her influences. “Frank Auerbach, and of course Mark Rothko. But my favourite artist is Constable. There’s something so beautiful in the way he paints. He’s the one artist I consciously draw upon. Another big influence is the Scottish landscape. My gran lived in a house south of Ayrshire which we still own. I go there two or three times a year, travelling round the countryside soaking up the atmosphere. The muted browns, reds, oranges and golds in my latest work come directly for the Highlands.”
Sitting in Rebecca’s studio my eye is drawn to a pair of striking photographs. They’re both in black and white and show the ghostly image of a corridor. “While I was at Oxford I built my own pinhole camera and made my own liquid light. I set the camera up, inserted light sensitive paper and pointed it down a corridor. I’ve got a thing about corridors with windows at the end. It all goes back to my gran.”
Painter, photographer, curator. Oh yes, and she’s also writing a children’s book! Rebecca smiled modestly. “Everything I do feeds back into my painting. It takes such a long time to process ideas. Before I even think of picking up a brush I immerse myself in the subject matter.”
The deep emotional content of her work is testament to her dedication. This gifted artist is the real deal. So if you’re a serious collector or someone who wants to invest in a future star, then check out Rebecca’s latest paintings before the prices hit the stratosphere.
Rebecca’s exhibition at Art My Treasure began March 23 and runs for eight weeks.