‘I’m not lonely, I’m alone!’ – this is one of the saddest things I heard on Radio 4 during lockdown . It was a woman whose husband had just died of COVID and the anguish in her voice was absolutely heartrending.
I have tried to capture this raw emotion through a series of black and white images of a woman clutching a pillow in her grief. This work has extended to images of comfort:- a daughter holding her mother through plastic PPE, a man cradling a young person, a couple embracing. It has been an interesting and demanding departure from my more usual work which uses bold bright colours especially oranges, reds and blues and tend to celebrate people coming together in everyday situations – family groups playing on the beach, friends walking together or chatting in a café.
During Open Studios I will show both kinds of work reflecting the joys and sorrows of our shared humanity.
I have always been interested in faces and a keen photographer of people but it is only in the last ten years or so that I have been able to focus on painting. My primary interest was portraiture and I relished capturing the amazing faces of those that I met through my work and travels. Recently this interest in people has progressed to exploring ways that people interact in everyday situations. I paint people in conversation, in cafes, walking together or playing together.
Lockdown presented new challenges as people suffered loss and isolation and I have been trying to capture the strong emotions this provokes in large black and white drawings – people waiting, people alone and people giving comfort.
Rachael is at venue 34 in Exeter