Artist of the Month 2018

April: Rebecca Newnham

Image: Rebecca Newnham, Lily Pads

Our Artist of the Month feature aims to promote artists' work and raise issues in a quick, informal way. April's Artist of the Month is Rebecca Newnham.

Hello, what do you do?

I’m a sculptor and designer. The sculptor side of me likes developing the narrative whilst responding to materials and the designer side is the problem solver – what’s the best way to say this, express this originally, playfully, in this situation? I’m into simple engineering solutions to create kinetic sculpture installations. 


Where are you based?

I’m in Bournemouth, Southbourne, near the sea, which is a massive influence. Been there two years now. Loads of artists around here and only a few galleries or arts centre - there’s a gap that needs filling. We need artist workshop spaces too.


Where do you work?

We bought a wreck of a house, I managed the project to make it liveable and built a studio in the garden with a tight budget. I’ve got large but efficient glass kilns and fire enamels onto glass or fuse glass in them. 

It’s a flexible space – one day I’m carving plaster / wax / breeze blocks, then casting concrete mixed with crushed glass the next, then I hoover up and cut glass, timber, or paint enamels onto glass. 

I start my day with my family, then run, have a swim in the sea or walk the dog on the beach. All the time I’m thinking about my sculpture, solving glitches. I’m in the studio by about 9.30am, and work on my own or with company. My laptop is on the kitchen table as the WiFi is rubbish elsewhere, so I’m replying to emails on and off, when I make tea or stop for lunch. 


What’s the best thing about the area you live/work in?

It is amazing to live by the sea. My studio has a roof light so I can see the sky too. There are lots of creative people here, I really love connecting with them, perhaps collaborating on a project too. 


What does 'success' mean to you? 

Just keeping everything in the air – making new work, selling it, managing my existing work, exhibitions, collaborating with other creatives, doing talks, bringing artists together. I help to organise events such as regional artist get togethers for the Royal Society of Sculptors and help coordinate ArtParkSpace. I am ambitious, I’m always looking for something great: collaboration, innovation, propelling my creative practice forward.


Do you earn a living from making art?

Yes I live from making my work. I have done since I left college in 1991. I have financially fantastic years and financially terrible ones. When I sell I invest in time to make new work. 


What makes a good artwork?

I’m into work that functions on many levels: it needs to have some immediate intrigue and then layers of further meanings to be excavated. It must stand on its own without explanation but blossom when scrutinised.


What have you been up to recently?

I’m in a white hire van at the moment, driving north, packed with 5 floating Lily Pad sculptures commissioned for a lake at The Himalayan Gardens and Sculpture Park. The Lily Pads are each 1.3m diameter and are bright reds, orange and purple pad forms to be anchored in the central lake; they are about the plant collections at the gardens, which are largely ericaceous or acid soil loving and originate from the East, brought here by Victorian plant hunters. As a visitor descends into the valley they will pass flowers of the same colours as the Lily Pads. The Lily Pads (based on giant Victoriana Amazonica) will be able to each float in a circumference and respond to the wind and water flow. This is the third floating sculptural installation at the gardens, Wave and Magnolia are in other lakes.

I also have Facets, 30 glass bowls, to exhibit in the visitor centre at the Himalayan Gardens until 1st July. I see the glass bowls as a single work, but am excited about the idea that collectors might buy a small selection to show together. This is the first time I have been able to show the 30 glass bowls on one surface, all together, so am really looking forward to that. 

Other current projects include a series of curved glass wall panels, called Vermeer, where I paint with glass enamel onto a sheet of prepared glass, manipulate and then fire the glass and then cut into mosaic and reassemble like a collage.


What have you got coming up?

Next is a sculpture project commissioned by a school to reflect their ambitious new buildings and new integrated learning system. They are adopting STEAM: science, technology, engineering, art and maths.

I’m also working on casting small scale sphere-like sculptures, which are about water.  Don’t know where I’ll show them yet, but I have a few ideas to explore. On 7th May I’m part of ArtParkSpace, where creatives reflect an aspect of their practice in a vehicle. Check out BEAF for all the details.  This summer as well as the Himalayan Gardens, you can see my work at The Garden Gallery and the Walled Garden.


What's On

Craft Workshops

Various Venues

Friday 08 February 2019 – Tuesday 31 December 2019

Linda Brothwell Conversations in Making

Stonehenge Visitor Centre, Amesbury, Wiltshire SP4 7DE

Friday 24 May 2019 – Sunday 24 November 2019

Exeter's Fine Art Collection: A Sense of Place

Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Queen Street, Exeter, Devon, EX4 3RX

Tuesday 18 June 2019 – Sunday 15 March 2020

Visual Arts South West

Working towards a South West where talented artists thrive, and a resilient and connected visual arts ecology that inspires more engaged and diverse audiences to value and advocate for its work.

Part of the Contemporary Visual Arts Network

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