In conversation with

Rebeka Tarane

Rebeka Tarane, born in Riga, Latvia, currently lives and practices in Bournemouth. She primarily works in the medium of abstract painting, interested in the materiality of paint and the meeting of different traditional and non-painting materials. As an artist whose work previously demanded large, physical space to create and exhibit, lockdown and online exhibitions have forced Rebeka to adjust how she makes and shares her work.

Untitled (Long Blues) 
Mixed media on canvas (2020)

Cyddie: Have you turned to your practice more over lockdown?

Rebeka: For me there has been a slight difference in productivity between lockdowns, the second being a lot more about enjoying the finite free time I had before going back to my day job in hospitality.

I think the first lockdown was so new and unusual, it almost felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity to have so much time, although it was quite daunting not being productive in some shape or form, which I managed to channel into painting. I find it quite hard not having a studio and having to work in my flat. I often go long periods of time without making work and this has been bothering me for a while. During lockdown I had the chance to stop and breathe which resulted in 3 or 4 weeks of working every day - whether out of boredom or necessity I am not sure.

As I can only work on 1 or 2 paintings at the time due to space I ended up trying out working on paper for the first time in my painting practice. Even though it sounds like an easier material to work with, the simplicity made it a challenge for me as I tend to work in layers and can be quite heavy handed. This allowed me to produce more work quicker, with less commitment to a singular piece and a chance to explore new ways of mark making, less opportunities to make mistakes or be displeased, which has been refreshing.

Untitled (Back, Back, Back)
Mixed media on canvas (2020)

Your work is sometimes both painterly and sculptural. Have restrictions affected how your work inhabits its space?

I find it so sad how there are barely any options for emerging artists to show work physically at the moment, a lot of opportunities and spaces have had to postpone their plans or completely readjust to the current situation. It is hard to think about your work within a space when the industry seems so uninspiring and restricted.

I have a very large scale piece, Untitled (None the Wiser) that was created with the intent of adapting and dominating space. This has been exhibited 3 times, the last time was November 2019 at The Old Biscuit Factory in London when I fully realised the potential of this piece, the opportunities, and the fun I could have with work like this. I was hoping to continue to display this painting and potentially create more, obviously all that has been put on pause.

I don’t mind that I have gone quite the opposite way, working on paper that isn’t larger than A2. It feels nice to not always have to be grandiose with my approach and zooming in a little on the very basics of my practice such as brush marks and simple colours has been beneficial to me.

From the series An Ode
Mixed media on canvas (2019)

Do you feel you could deploy your work in the growing digital landscape? Or does it demand physical space in order to choreograph an audience and flow through the space?

This has increasingly crossed my mind recently, considering that most of 2020 happened online… For me, in terms of my practice, I am interested in making painting into installation that overtakes space, and engaging with an audience through more traditional displaying methods, where I am looking to create an intimate portal to the viewer through the implied narrative and mood of the painting. Neither of these particularly work digitally.

My work is often monumental and it is a very integral part of my practice, I use this to illustrate the cathartic nature of life and feeling. There is a lot of detail in my work and I simply cannot see the viewer connecting to it from a distance - through a screen. As vast and expanding as the digital landscape is, it is not vast enough to be able to convey and deliver the more human side of connections and feeling, which I try to convey in my work.

I am currently still too interested in space, display and the audience to move on to the digital, I think. 

What influences your choice of colour, and does it reflect the same intention for the viewer as the writing?

I work a lot from intuition, I do not prepare sketches or plan the paintings and never know what they will look like even by the end of the day. The most I do is “zoom” into a specific feeling or thought I’ve been having, often evoked by quotes and music.

I love leaving a lot of things up to chance but also have this need to be genuine and honest but not always being able to express that on a daily basis with people, so that spills over into my work and I let my subconscious do a lot of the work.

I believe the colours and the gestures used in the writing are symbiotic and fundamentally carry one unified message of each piece and reach the viewer at the same time, as a singular image, maybe even feeling. The more you look, the more it will reveal.

From the series An Ode
Mixed media on canvas (2018)

What other artists you feel are aiming to challenge this notion that painting within the contemporary art world is outdated?

There are a few artists that I think do this well but it might not be the primary focus of their practice. I have been a massive fan of Katharina Grosse whose work is more than painting, more than sculpture or installation, it exists somewhere in between. Instead of brushes she uses spray guns, instead of canvas - walls and buildings.

Another favourite of mine, Jose Parla, who comes from street art and graffiti, creates fantastic calligraphy tales on canvas that look like nothing else I’ve seen in abstract painting.

These artists aren’t necessarily out there trying to prove how painting is still contemporary however, in my opinion, the presence and acclaim of their practices and work are a clear indication that painting has been and still is capable of adapting, advancing and can exist within the busyness of contemporary art world, with so many new mediums being introduced in the past 100 years alone.

Visit Rebeka’s websitehere