Rebecca Gilpin and the Art of Being Young, Working Hard, and Embracing Challenge

If you happen to brush up against Rebecca Gilpin in a hallway, at a gig, or while crossing the street outside Koppel Projects’ Hive Studios Space in Holborn, you can expect to be greeted with an upbeat and genuine “Hello Love!” Her canvases radiate this same bold and inviting spirit; if they could speak, they’d probably adopt the same greeting. There’s a persistent, fluid energy at work in that studio in Holborn, where the atmosphere feels alive, and there’s always music in the air.

Rebecca Gilpin

This new work is kind of like a search for spirituality

Rebecca Gilpin

Rebecca Gilpin might be best known for her tranquil, psychedelic stain-paintings. Her large-scale abstract works have hung in a long list of notable galleries and have been gifted, collected, and admired throughout the young artist’s early career. Gilpin’s work has been largely autobiographical, exploring her relationship to music and quest for balance and calm.

Rebbeca’s work is featured in an upcoming group exhibition ‘Inner Worlds‘ at Fitzrovia gallery from 16th-20th February 2022

SA: To start off, could you give Artplugged readers a little recap of what we should know about this new series of work and how it came about?

RG: Yeah. I mean, I’ve had an extreme fear of death my whole life. I’ve always really been obsessed with constantly thinking about the afterlife and whether or not there is one. I think this new work is kind of like a search for spirituality. We’ve sadly just lost a friend, so I’m trying to process that through reading about Buddhism, and I think that doors to other places have appeared in my work subconsciously. I think that’s me trying to be hopeful for all of our futures.

SA: From what I can see from your work, it’s always very personal and autobiographical. Have you always used art as a medium to process things in your life or is this kind of new territory?

RG: I used to like think I was going to be a musician, then [one day] I just got really bad stage fright. I had to put that to rest, so then I just started shyly making art, which became my main focus. I guess, for me, my way of expressing myself was playing music, but then I got to an age where that wasn’t enough anymore, and I couldn’t write music. I had to try and make something of my own as a release for that feeling I get when I listen to music.

Fairytale in the Supermarket
Oil and oil stick on canvas
SA: What I have seen of your work before was mostly your application of the acrylic staining process you developed. Looking around this studio things seem very different, do you feel like your work has gone through a drastic change lately?

RG: Before, I think I was trying to calm myself down by doing soak-stain work. I felt like I just needed to breathe and be calm during the pandemic, and I thought that I needed to let those paintings do that for other people.

But I’m so angry right now that I think I’ve been quite rough with the work. It’s a way of letting my anger out towards the state of the world and everything. By doing this, I can leave the studio and feel at peace with myself.

SA: It makes sense that this would resonate with you considering your engagement with music in the past. I wanted to ask if this series in particular is more influenced by your personal experience or by the pandemic in general or a combination of both?

RG: We work next to St. Paul’s cathedral, and every night they have an evening song when the choir sings at the front, and you can go and sit with the choir. I’ve been doing that a lot recently to give myself peace of mind, and it makes me feel relaxed.

SA: Is there an exhibition already in the works for this series?

RG: Yes, a group show with me and Henry Ward, who’s a legend. I sent him a playlist of what I’ve been listening to at the minute to make all this work. We’ve just chosen a title this morning, which is exciting. The title is Roam. It’s a song by the B52’s. The dates are 20th – 24th April at the Fitzrovia Gallery

What Difference Does it Make? Oil and oil stick on canvas
SA: Have you done a lot of collaboration with other artists before? Or have you mostly been solo up until now?

RG: I have. This whole series of work actually came to me because Barbara Ray, the artist, said she came to my exhibition and said I need to start using oil paint. I had to challenge myself and do something completely different.

So I had a day here where one of my friends came to see some work, and we made a painting together.

That was the start of this quite sort of assertive, punky, jazzy sort of work. I think we just played music really loud in here. I needed to be less precious and go with my gut instinct. By doing this with them, all the pressure had been taken off. Because we were just doing it as a fun project rather than a serious piece of work, it led to me to just loosening up and being more confident in my ability to paint, and I’m feeling more confident now than ever.

Vitamin C’, oil and oil stick on canvas, 120 x 120cm
SA: That story you just told and also how you described appreciating nightlife and going out, it seems like these works are also a celebration of just being a young person right now.

RG: Definitely like a hundred percent, I’m also trying to inspire people to work as hard as they can and go out as much as possible and enjoy what’s out there and what’s free.

SA: Do you have any advice for younger artists, not just young people in general?

RG: I think the main thing I want to say is don’t be too hard on yourself. You’ve got to have the struggle to appreciate the end result. And you just feel so much more proud of yourself when you make awful, awful, awful work, and then you finally make something amazing.

Read as much as you can. The Secret Lives of Colour, every artist should read that. Try and make opportunities for yourself by putting yourself out there. There’s a book by the Delphian gallery called Navigating the Art World: Professional Practice for the Early Career Artist. It gives you all the do’s and don’ts in the art world; every artist should read that as well.

SA: Do you ever get tired?

RG: I’m exhausted right now. Yeah

©2022 Rebecca Gilpin