“I am a maker of things; working predominately within the realms of contemporary painting.” These are the words of Australian Artist Rebecca Tapscott during our interview. But she is so much more than just a contemporary painter, as I soon find out. “I do like to mix it up a bit with Cyanotypes, welded sculptures and ceramics,” she tells me.
Rebecca realised her talent for art when she was just 9 years old, having won her first art prize with a drawing of her pet Guinea Pig, Speedy. “It inspired me to keep recording the world around me.” Rebecca’s artistic ability was something that ran in the family. Her ancestor on her mum’s side, Frederick Garling Jr was the first formally trained artist in Australia. Her Aunt from her dad’s side has also been a painter for many years.
Rebecca continued painting during school where her ability grew, before proceeding to Art School at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. “I went to Charles Sturt in part because my family couldn’t afford to send me to Sydney and because they offered Silversmithing which I was fascinated by.” Silversmithing is where objects are crafted from silver.
As an artist, Rebecca describes herself as a “dysfunctional worker who can get caught up with art until the early hours of the morning.” She jokes that this can make her a grumpy mother. Whilst having a room dedicated for her art, she admits that her art spreads from the studio. “I tend to spread my work place from my studio to all ends of the house, which encourages my children to explore their creativity.”
Being a mother is the most important job for Rebecca which is how one of her exhibitions ‘Motherworld’ came into focus. Beginning 6 years ago, ‘Motherworld’ was created as a means for a collection of mothers to re-explore the art world after children. “It occurs every second year and each year we explore how our work or arts practice has developed and evolved in tandem with children.” For Rebecca, the focus of the exhibition this year was her own childhood memories and how they had influenced what she wants to happen in her kids’ world.
I ask her how she prepares for such an exhibition and what work goes into it. “It is not just about making an artwork, it also has to look good on the wall. Some galleries have specific hanging types and others don’t.” She also tells me that promotion is also one of the main factors. If the promotion is in the hands of the artist they generally call newspapers and radio stations and use social media as a way of advertising the exhibition. Then there is the mental preparation which, for Rebecca, is the hardest part. “When you make art and exhibit it, you are presenting a piece of your soul for others to critique.”
Glancing through Rebecca’s artwork, there is a clear inspiration from natural environments but the meanings delve much deeper. The 2015 artwork ‘A murder of Crows’ depicts a landscape with crows, but there is a deeper meaning behind it as Rebecca tells me. “It actually had 48 crows that represented the 48 women who had been killed in domestic violence that year up until the exhibition date.” In 2016, Rebecca exhibited at The Northern Rivers Community Gallery in Ballina whereby all the artwork shown depicted a deeper undercurrent prevailing in the life of the birds that were shown.
Currently Rebecca is about to exhibit work at the Belconnen Arts Centre in Canberra that depicts life cycles. “I make Cyanotype prints of dead things then paint the living counterpart in a contour drawing over the top. This represents my brush with death, having recently survived breast cancer.” Later in our interview, I learn that Rebecca has used her fight with breast cancer to tweak her artistry. “Before I use to do numerous sketches and rework artworks. Now I am bold and every line has meaning and method. My linework is continuous and my colours are raw. One line, one life and colour to be joyful that I still have life.”
Like most artists, there are things that inspire Rebecca to do what she does. She finds inspiration in the works of Matisse, Kandinsky and Frida Kahlo but also from the art of her family and friends as well as life experiences itself.
Aside from being an artist and a mother, Rebecca is also a teacher in Kyogle in Northern New South Wales. “I love engaging students with art and how it encompasses everything in the world, from English to Maths.” She has recently finished her Masters in Mathematics but still predominately teaches art. “I try to get students to focus laterally in their worlds and see how they can explore the mathematical in the artistic and vice versa.” She uses Mathematics as a means for conceptually visualising the world from another level of understanding. “This assists my art and teaching practice as I incorporate programs that encompass art and Maths.”
She says one of the best things about being a teacher is getting her students to create murals because she loves public art. “I feel it allows students to engage with their communities. At Kyogle under my instigation, the local students started painting power poles throughout town”. This is an endeavour that she hopes will continue over the next few years.
As my interview with Rebecca Tapscott draws to a close, I am beginning to see the person she describes herself as: someone who thinks deeply, laughs with meaning and shares kindness. You could say that it is present there in her colourful and wonderful works of art.
To view more of Rebecca Tapscott’s art, visit her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/rebeccatapscottartist