Continuing her longstanding interest in the intersections of cinema and painting, Rachel Lancaster’s new body of work explores a quiet tension between familiarity and mystery, capturing the uncanny backlit glow of pre-digital media.
Based on films from the 1980s and 90s, the new series of paintings further draws out the ‘noise’ and visual distortion of analogue footage. Rooted in the artist’s own formative experiences with VHS tapes and other physical media, the resulting works reflect the particular light and colour of a past time, evoking a culturally-specific aesthetic sensibility through a painterly quality that is equally haunting, curious and dream-like.
The paintings are made by applying successive thin glazes of translucent oil paint, allowing many layers of colour and texture to accrue over time. Slipping between definition and abstraction, her surfaces contain an array of optical effects. Often, anticipated details give way to looser, minimal rendering that is revealed as a painterly abstraction upon closer inspection. The artist carefully considers subtle decisions about cropping the source material, and through an open ended, intuitive process, evokes a narrative that is full of mystery and intrigue.
A careful attention to multiple scales – life size, close up, zoom, at a distance – establish distinct modes of viewing, placing the viewer in different vantage points, either on the floor, at eye level, looking down upon the subject. The eerie scenes are as if they are within their own temporality, either stuck in the past or in a limbo state. Reflections, colours and action point beyond the canvas, suggestive of what else is happening outside the image, lurking out of sight.
Rachel Lancaster lives and works in Newcastle Upon Tyne. She has exhibited widely and taken part in numerous projects, performances and artist residencies both nationally and internationally. In 2015 she was invited to be Artist In Residence at Alewive Brook Road in New York, former residence and studio of Elaine De Kooning. Lancaster was shortlisted for the Contemporary British Painting Prize 2018 and the BEEP Painting Prize 2020. Lancaster is represented by Workplace Gallery and in 2021 was invited to become a member of Contemporary British Painting. In 2022 Lancaster was the joint winner of the BEEP Painting Prize and winner of the Ares Mosaic Art Award.