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IN CONVERSATION

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Portrait Artist | Rebecca Holton

16 Sept 2020

Rebecca Holton is a contemporary Fine Artist working and exhibiting in London, UK. Her work focuses on the human figure, – through lifework, observation and portraiture. “I am interested in the art of story-telling through paint. I paint moments when people are unaware they are being captured. When someone is absorbed in their own space – whether that is deep in conversation, thought, work or play. The lack of visual connection between the subject and the viewer allows us to study the figures and their surrounding environment – and therefore, encourages us to use the painting’s details to create their stories.”

What is your definition of studio space? 


Effective studio space would be a space which puts me in the right frame of mind in order to make great artwork. So, not only is it an inspirational space, but it’s also somewhere I can be productive – somewhere I can be both productive and happy. From a business perspective, it would also be somewhere where I can build my network with other artists. We can share and debate creative ideas, but also, we can use our proximity to grow our art businesses -you’re more likely to have gallery curators interested in viewing work across several artists, it’s more cost-effective to photograph work together… and it’s somewhere you can take both current and prospective clients.  


Collaborative/ communal studio spaces are on the rise. Do you believe this formula can work? 


Yes, I do. I suspect the reason collaborative and communal spaces are on the rise within the artistic community in London, is often due to cost-effectivity  – an artist’s life from a business point of view can be one that’s quite tough. And it’s obviously cheaper, therefore, to share studios. Yes, there is also an artistic benefit from that. And I do think that this formula works.I do think there’s a need to reevaluate the relationship between the art world and the business world, and actually recognise the commercial value that an artist’s influence can bring to business. 


Do you believe that London has an impact on your art? 


Completely. I lived in Hong Kong for six years and we returned to London in 2017. And the joy of returning to London, and the impact of what I had taken for granted, when we lived there before, was huge. You can never underestimate the luxury of inspiration we have here – the amazing galleries and original artworks that are on our doorstep- that you take for granted. So, for example, you see these amazing paintings and artworks in books and print and then when you see them in reality, it’s just a completely different experience. It’s incredibly inspirational. 


And then would you consider moving back outside London now even though you just moved back? 


Yes, I would consider moving outside London. But I would be reticent to move too far away, I would still want some links and maybe be within the commuter belt.  At the moment, I’m relatively central up in North London and the idea of moving beyond… the commute would make me quite concerned – given that I have had that experience of moving out versus in – and remembering the impact of moving back. 

Since you just moved, can you talk about the difference in your work since you’ve moved back? 


Yeah. I think anyone that says their immediate environment doesn’t affect their work is probably not being true to themselves. You can’t help but be affected by what’s immediately around you. My work is dominated by the figure. So it’s figurative and it’s portraiture. I’m very influenced by what is around, the people around me, the culture that is around me. And when I moved back into London, I felt I was looking at London with almost a visitor’s eye – an objectivity I didn’t have when I left. And I was really struck by the plethora of different people we have living in the city all on top of each other. However, I was also still affected by the visual language of Asia and the work that I’ve seen there so I ended up almost confusing the two. The first series I created when I came back was called ‘London Commuting.’ It used the beauty and simplicity of graphic line that was very influenced by Asia, whereas the people in it were influenced by the commuters that I saw on the London buses. 


What do you think the future of studio space will look like? 


I think there is an intrinsic creative and innovative value to having artists around a business that is still being recognised – but I think the stronger business case still needs to be made. The closest thing is “artists in residency.” If you think about property areas within London, I’m thinking property areas like Shoreditch, Hackney, Brixton, they were really quite poor a few years ago. And so, artists communes began to grow within them because they were very cost-effective. When the artists began to take over those areas, they added an element of ‘coolness’ to it – creativity and innovation. And lo and behold the businesses began to follow and the property prices increase, and yet this value has never fully been recognised commercially. It feels to me that if we can prove the commercial value of business being truly integrated with artists, it could be a very effective partnership. 


So then how do you believe we can ensure artists remain in London? 


I’ve probably covered this in my previous answer. 

The boring answer is cost-effectivity. Every artist has to be their own entrepreneur, you are running your own business. It’s not just about the creative side of it, you’re running your business selling yourself and your work – marketing, finance, the whole lot.  


So yeah, cost-effectivity helps. Keeping the galleries open in the current circumstances would be great! 


 Is there any way that you think artists can collaborate and communicate with developers specifically to try to maintain that cultural community? 


I really feel that to make an amazing collaborative studio space for artists, is often about the curation of that – who is next to who. So if a developer could collaborate with a professional gallery curator and let them lead – you know, these are the right artists, this is the kind of creative community space that we are trying to create. Knowing a gallery creator is heavily involved in the artist selection also gives the space kudos. It’s important to find the right mix of artists to take the space – then the space will begin to have a life of its own.

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