Rebekah Stuart Q+A | Nature’s Denouement
Rebekah Stuart is a contemporary visual artist exploring an alternative aesthetic to the traditional and Romantic landscape. Rebekah reconstructs fragments of nature via digital media to create landscapes that do not exist in reality. Rebekah’s images evolve in a similar fashion to that of a painter, over long duration. Rebekah builds and refines details for a new whole to emerge, disorientating the observer’s position in a subtle way to reflect on their own internal terrain. The landscapes are a reflection of the horizons carried within – an intimate sublime for a time when wilderness is perhaps uninhabitable.
Megan Dicks and Rebekah Stuart caught up, ahead of the online exhibition – Nature’s Denouement.
Nature’s Denouement is an intriguing title for your exhibition. How does the word ‘denouement’, meaning a finale or epilogue, relate to your work for this exhibition?
The title Nature’s Denouement pertains to nature having the final resolve, whether that be ambiguous, unresolved or enlightening. I see nature as the ultimate example for surrender; it has a fortified potency that is potentially mirrored within us. Nature will always find a way to re-generate but humans may not, so the value and beauty of nature is always to be revered.
Over the last few years with Otomys Contemporary you’ve consistently shown a diligent and mindful approach to your art practice and I imagine you apply this to life in general. Your landscapes reflect this demeanour. Tell us more about your art practice and state of mind behind these works?
I photograph scenes and fragments of nature only when I feel innately drawn to do so, rather than routinely photographing every day. Music, silence and or sounds of nature often inspire a meditative approach to my art. With this, I’m guided to create scenes that delight my senses and create visceral inclinations.I meditate on scenes to create a physical and emotional experience. The scenes centre around themes that include memory, historical stories or topics within philosophy.
Recently I experimented with creating quick snaps of ‘visual worlds’ in response to my daily life, but my usual practice is a long process beginning with sketching and layering fragments of photographs. I overlay the formal elements and compose scenes by blending and layering light with dark and colour. I tend to rotate between 4-5 works at a time to distance myself from each before working on them again. This process can last between two weeks to four months.
What has it been like working creatively whilst in lockdown on the coast of Victoria?
Since June my partner and I have spent the bulk of our time In Aireys Inlet working full time on our art endeavors, including dance. The ocean’s horizon and varied temperaments soothe and clear my mind. In fact, I don’t think I have ever appreciated the coast, back street forests and the generosity of nature as much as I have during this lockdown stage. I appreciate the privilege of living amongst the natural elements and don’t take this for granted. Every morning I visit the inlet and beach before I start work – I am so grateful for this experience.
Your work often expresses a delicate beauty within a place in shadow or darkness. In this ‘upside down world’ right now what silver linings do you foresee?
I have challenged myself through these months of lockdown, to see the confronting aspects of life as an opportunity to ask where the alchemy or gold lies within all experience. I don’t pretend to always feel positive, but I ask questions in a Rumi kind of fashion. One of Rumi’s quotes that comes to mind is ‘Look for the answer inside your question’. With many challenges in life, the power lies within the choices we make. I can allow myself to feel frightened and overwhelmed, or I can channel this energy to be creative. I don’t always aim to shift a dark mood; I often surrender to it. Every silver lining has a beautiful dark cloud!
You are a performing artist as well as a digital print maker, I’d love to know how your art practices inform each other?
My dance informs my art; it gives energy, focus and balance to a practice that requires much stillness, patience and trust. Alternatively, my art brings meaning to my dance. I am currently composing a new dance for my ‘Dance Choir company’, which will comprise eleven dancers on stage relating to the natural worlds presented in my digital print works. My art and dance are polyphonic narratives where the many sounds, voices, emotional states, forms and layers interact with equal importance. On stage, the expression sublimates in a fleeting moment and in my art this is sustained within the print.
Recently my partner, Mischa Baka, and I produced Perpetual, a short dance film for Nature’s Denouement. (As I was dancing for the shoot, I was able to remove my mask). Perpetual is a summary of how humans often find creative ways to meet life by redirecting energies from life’s joys and challenges, into inspirational form. I love how the rhythms of flowing, staccato, chaos lyrical and stillness from my Five Rhythms dance practice, also play out in nature. The rhythms within nature and in the body seem to be varied sized art forms showing all inner tenuous, fractured or flowing worlds. As an artist creating my own worlds, I think of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein from time to time, and how what we create becomes its own power, will and voice. Once I create my art and place it out into the world it is beyond my control and there is something about this that is frightening and liberating but also carries a sense of responsibility for me.
Filmed by Mischa Baka. Produced, directed and edited by Mischa Baka and Rebekah Stuart. Music credits Perpetual: Alto Giove – Polifemo, Act 111-A. Rearranged by Michal Imielski & Elsen Price. Dead Sunrise (Original Soundtrack).
Can you recommend a book or a piece of music, particularly for those of us currently in lockdown?
I loved Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. The story is set in a deserted marshland in the 60’s, and a young female protagonist faces the harsh realities of racism and complete abandonment. She is so deeply ensconced in her environment alone, and her descriptions of nature are deeply moving, magnified and exquisite. In the past I listened a great deal to Francis Poulenc and Domenico Scarlatti – Sonata in B flat major is a favourite. But more recently I am listening to a variety of dance tracks for my morning and mid-afternoon Pomodoro dance break.