We are so proud to have welcomed Rebecca Sammon to our wonderful roster of artists, having recently launched her debut collection with us. In this 'In The Studio With Rebecca Sammon' interview we get to know the artist behind ‘Foliole’ as we chat about her background, creative process, and the magical narratives that inform her work.
How did you become an artist, what's your training and background?
I studied Fine Art at the University of Brighton, - as part of that, I spent 6 months in Kansas studying Painting and Poetry and loved the combination of the two. After graduating, I moved to London and alongside drawings, I started working in the fashion industry as a stylist at fashion magazines. I always loved creating art but wasn't sure how people did this as a job.
After a few years of working in Fashion, I wanted to do something that felt more creative - I sold most of my belongings and left London to travel around Asia - it was here where I started to draw every day. I drew from observation initially, I was feeling so inspired by everything around me and drew to capture snippets of the colour and energy of the spaces I was visiting. I travelled with a case full of sketchbooks and materials and worked to document the experiences and often otherworldliness of these fascinating places, when I eventually returned to London I continued to develop my practice. More recently I felt so inspired by being a part of The Drawing Intensive at the Royal Drawing School - I loved every minute of being there.
What artists, subjects or movements influence your work?
My influences vary and move around a lot, and I love to bring repeat symbols through from one piece to another. I go to lots of life drawing classes and often try to capture some of my figures in movement. One particularly memorable life class I went to was to draw a contortionist - it was incredible to experience a human moving their body in that way. I worked a lot from the drawings I made in that class - it was hypnotic and something about this stayed with me and regularly creeps into my work. I like to look at classical sculptures too and come back to this as a drawing reference regularly. I love the contrast between drawing ethereal dancers and movers and the heavily grounded solidity of creatures made of stone.
When it comes to other artists and movements, I have repeat obsessions that I come back to again and again. I'm in love with Fra Angelico and Mantegna again. I adore Mantegna's Samson and Delilah piece that’s currently in the National Gallery - the balance between solidity and flatness and where this meets a magical ink sky is so perfect - I can’t wait for the world to reopen to go and see it again. I am also revisiting a series of photographs I took at the Munch Museum in Oslo, I love how Munch creates a kind of fluidity in his scenes.
Can you tell us a bit more about your debut collection, Foliole?
My inspiration was sparked by a William Blake quote when creating the Foliole debut collection, The tree which moves some to joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way.’ William Blake
Foliole relates to a small leaf-shaped structure or something resembling a leaf - a recurrent symbol throughout this collection. The figures inhabiting Foliole are exploring imagined spaces, recurrent leafy shapes exist with other illusory forms that are presented alongside the figures exploring these worlds. These figures exist in a liminal space between the dream and the representational. These figures exist with symbols such as moving leaves, swaying trees, and winged creatures that alter the way we see them, both obscuring and interacting within the frame.
What does your process look like?
Initially, I work across multiple pieces, forming loose sketches of figures, as figures start to emerge that feel right, I will then focus on one piece and start to build that piece up. It’s an instinctive process and I don’t usually like to plan out a piece before I start - From the initial drawings, I'm looking for something unexpected about the way the instinctive lines work together and it’s here when something seems to start working that I begin to focus in on one piece.
Why do you choose to work in the materials that you do?
I am currently working a lot with Pencil & Oil Pastel on Paper, I love the way this allows me to turn the drawings into my pieces of work without having to transfer them to another surface where the immediacy can get diluted. I love the rather solid flat planes of colour that you can make and how you only have a certain amount of control. It interests me how the pastels interact with pencil marks rather than obscuring them fully and they create an element of movement within the drawing. I like the duality of the pastels revealing and concealing the lines, but also bringing an element of chance to the work.
You reference mythical narratives informing your work - do you hope to make the viewer feel a certain way within this context?
I draw inspiration from all over but certain things stay with you and form a kind for a current through a body of work. I have a fascination with mythology but I like to play around with it and take small elements of these inspirations into another time or another world - I work instinctively, but my interest in things like mythology and symbolism form a kind of imagined catalogue that seep into the work, my image research can be quite spontaneous and I draw from lots of different sources, I'm working on some ideas linked to the symbols in historical astrological maps at the moment.
I am creating the narrative but I like my pieces to be open to interpretation, I use figures in my work because the figure is something we all understand and relate to - I then like to combine figures with non-representational colours and imagined elements so these beings are transported to a new place. I leave things quite open for the viewer to explore - the most powerful response from looking at other artists works, give you a feeling that is stronger than anything I can put into words.
I love it when people tell me how they interpret one of my pieces, it’s often different to what I was thinking or responding to but I love the idea the pieces can spark their own story, or provoke a slightly different feeling to the one the viewer has a second before looking at the work.
Are there any famous quotes that represent well your practice?
These are two I love...
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” - Oscar Wilde
“You must forget all your theories, all your ideas before the subject. What part of these is really your own will be expressed in your expression of the emotion awakened in you by the subject." - Henri Matisse