In her painterly response to the subjects and narratives of her work, Rachael Dewhirst’s paintings touch upon both formal aspects of painting and the immediate experience of the world around her. Dewhirst works in a range of media, applying paint in impasto and translucent washes. Just as the application of paint to the canvas demonstrates a joy and pleasure in the act of painting, the subjects of Dewhirst’s work are equally characterized by their optimism. Rachael Dewhirst was born in Auckland 1991 and grew up in Mid-Canterbury, completed BFA Honours in Fine Arts in 2013 at the University of Canterbury, and has work in the collections of the James Wallace Trust, University of Canterbury and private collections.
Fearless Allegories about Painting
“This familiarity with the visual conversations and arguments that take place between representation and formalism is fundamental to Rachael Dewhirst’s painting. Her work embodies a certainty in its comprehension of painting as a specific way of making art that has its own means of representation. It should come as no surprise to learn that when Dewhirst held her first solo exhibition in 2012 the scale of her painting was fundamental to its success. She recalls: ‘From the scale, realisation and excitement in the making of those works I knew I could have a career as an artist. I see the potential of painting as limitless. I am never entirely sure what to do with a new series of work because there are too many options. I am always wanting to find a different way of working and this usually happens when I realise I have stopped experimenting and am just repeating what I’ve done before.’
Dewhirst discusses her work with an intuitive and comprehensive appreciation of the unique nature of painting and the qualities of the painted image. The subjectivity of an image and its potential narratives in a favourite work such as La Mer (2015), are fundamental to its success. Taking its theme from the landscape she experienced visiting France in 2014 Dewhirst remains speculative as to what might be taking place on the surface of the picture plane, celebrating its ambiguities and its certainties: ‘There is both a flatness and depth to La Mer in its treatment of form and space, and that blue shape in the foreground could be a whale’s tail or not. La Mer is a really abstract painting - but also a landscape of the Mediterranean. It may not be a detailed representation of the Mediterranean but for me, it does evoke the kind of emotional content of that environment. That’s how I experienced it. In terms of bringing this image to resolution, those marks and shapes around the edges, hold it all together. I use to think that resolving the work meant that there was always so much to still do on it, but just a dot of paint and the work can be complete.”
- Dr. Warren Feeney