KENT ARTIST PROFILE: RACHEL ARIF
If you had to define your art, how would you describe what you do?
I think this is what I’ve struggled with the most; it’s an ongoing debate. I think as time goes by and my work ‘matures’, my style is more distinctive but not necessarily instantly recognisable. I struggle with the notion of having to have ‘a style’ before you can successfully sell your work. I like the freedom of creativity. I don’t want to be pigeonholed yet I realise this is an area I need to focus on and build overtime. It’s getting there. Overall, I’d say I create paintings that I have some emotional connection to. I love to paint coastal scenes, marshes and rural landscapes. I am particularly drawn to the Suffolk coastal towns of Aldeburgh, Southwold, Thorpness and Walberswick. I love weather, extreme weather, whether it’s a hot summer’s day or a cold blustery day.
Our land and weather here in the UK make us who we are – they are part of our very soul. I am always trying to find ways to capture that moment, evoking those weather-filled days. I use acrylic and oil. I’m currently using lots of mixed media – I love the depth and texture you can create. I’d definitely say my work is more ‘abstract realism’ than anything else. I like to see brushstrokes, imperfections even. It’s a painting, not a photograph; it makes it more interesting.
How did you become an artist?
I studied art in my younger years but didn’t think I’d end up doing it for a living. I was extremely scatty in my youth and couldn’t quite settle on any career path. I’ve worked for telecommunication companies, legal, photography and as interior aesthetic content writer for The Plum Guide. Nothing really satisfied me nor did I feel fulfilled or hugely motivated in any way. I think my love of beautiful spaces helps. I like to create art that people will want to display, paintings that are memorable.
Once my two children, Sophia and Isaac, both started school full time I found I had more time on my hands – an opportunity to devote my time to something meaningful to me, and hopefully others. I resumed my love of painting and the rest is history. I changed my garage into a modest studio and started to paint again, sometimes using a photo as a reference or ‘En Plein Air’ (painting outdoors on location).
What has been your proudest artistic achievement to date?
I would say my proudest achievement to date is exhibiting several of my paintings at The Brick Lane Gallery in Shoreditch. It was very early days and I did well. I am also very proud of a recent painting that I was commissioned to do for some friends who had hired an interior designer to makeover their dining room. I was both humbled and flattered that they wanted a piece of my artwork for what turned out to be a very beautiful space.
Where have you exhibited your work?
To date I have exhibited in The Brick Lane Gallery London, The George Farnham Gallery Suffolk, Wrattens Interiors Chislehurst, Olivie Studio Framingham Suffolk, Snape Maltings Suffolk.
You’re partly based in Chislehurst – what does the area mean for you and your art?
Chislehurst to me is an undiscovered gem: leafy trees, Chislehurst Caves, twisty lanes in the heart and stunning Scadbury Park where I love to paint on occasion. I really like it as a place to live. It’s the archetypal English village with duck ponds and a cricket club. I am originally from Rochdale, Lancashire where I lived until my late 20s. I have since lived in Leeds, Highgate and Belsize Park North London then moved south of the river to Clapham. Needing more space we eventually decided on Chislehurst. I am regularly surprised at how many people I talk to have never heard of it. Location-wise it couldn’t be better. It’s less than 25 minutes into central London, has a vibrant high street, elegant Victorian Royal Parade and lovely commons. You feel as though you’re still ‘connected’ to London without the headache.
You also work in Suffolk. Is there a big difference between the two areas? Do they inform your art differently?
We have a property in Saxmundham which we go to most weekends. I get to explore the beautiful rural villages close by and experience the coastline while gaining inspiration for my painting. The landscape is very different to Kent. The villages near to where our house is are like time stood still. You literally feel as though you’ve stepped back in time, all golden fields, farmers markets, village fairs and galleries.
I find it refreshing. It clears my head and there is beauty round every corner. Constable himself was born in Suffolk and painted his most celebrated works, the most famous being “The Hay Wain”, which depicts a horse and cart crossing the River Stour.
You’ve said that you find the weather a powerful force when it comes to creativity. What kind of weather do you prefer? What makes the most dramatic kind of art?
Yes, I love extreme weather. I love baked grass and windswept beaches. I love the movement, texture and colours that an ever-changing landscape creates. Crashing waves, scarlet clouds and grey dismal rainy days. I think my most favourite works are of bleak days in winter spent along the beach.
What does the rest of 2017 (and beyond) hold in store for you?
My daughter wants me to have a stall at the Christmas fair at her school Babington House, so that’s a possibility. I have a couple of meetings in Suffolk mid-November at galleries to discuss representation. I’m entering South East Open Studios next June so have to plan for that. I have a further two editorials to prepare for and am entering Ashhurst Artist Prize competition. I am also in talks with a couple of galleries in London regarding exhibitions.