In her first solo exhibition, Rachel Garrard uses the contours of her body to question the existential
Artist Rachel Garrard didn't have the most usual of upbringings. She grew up in a house of scientists; something that she believes has ultimately – and unavoidably – affected her work. “We are all marked by our own experiences in life, and I feel the work I make can’t help but be a kind of amalgamation of experiences and incorporate a worldview that I feel is intrinsically true,” she explains. Speaking of truth, her latest work, and first solo exhibition Vessel, is based on it – the pursuit of truth, in fact, or in particular; the "notions of visibility, impermanence, interconnectedness and essence”. Running over the past month – with this weekend your last chance to see it – it has seen Garrard looking inwards to herself, drawing from the contours of her own body by creating geometric shapes, which almost glow on their selected canvas. Alongside these, a durational performance piece sees the artist who, enamoured by the idea of birth, death and rebirth, cages herself in a ‘vessel’, just as, she explains, “the physical body temporarily houses the soul”. Below, we talk to Garrard about going beyond, the importance of disconnecting and the continual search for truth.
Could you tell us about your work? I believe this exhibition in particular is about the search for truth...
Rachel Garrard: In order to think creatively, you have to sort of lose yourself, you have to get out of the realm of mundane everyday thoughts and into a slightly altered state where you can view things more clearly. I know I have got to that state when I start to feel as though I am dissolving, going beyond myself completely into something infinite.
I begin to feel intrinsically connected to everything else in the universe, and see my body extend throughout the cosmos. I feel no sense of separation or individuality, and most of all I feel an overwhelming sense of love for all life forms. It is from this state that I am able to think most creatively. It takes a very personal internal process to get there, but from here the ideas feel more universal. When making work it’s like I need to be intensely concentrated, but also a little bit out of it, slightly unconscious of what I am doing, so that the final piece always come as a sort of surprise to me and I am not entirely sure how I made it. I feel like in some way the works are telling me how to make them and have a life and a presence all of their own.
The exhibition meshes sculptural work, performance, paintings and drawings into the same space, why do you feel it's important to conduct yourself across so many different mediums?
Rachel Garrard: My ideas usually come in a sort of ephemeral form, so the challenge is then to figure out a way of creating something material from it without diluting the original idea. This is why in a way the medium of the end result isn’t really so important, as long as it expresses the idea clearly. The same concept could be turned into a painting or a performance and for me would still be the same – it is usually just the first impression of how it could be made in my head that I go with.
One aspect of the exhibition is your durational performance where you find yourself housed in a vessel, could you explain how this makes you feel, or what emotions are running through you as you undertake the performance?
Rachel Garrard: “Interrelated Echoes” is a performance where I am inside the sculpture I have created along my own contours. It is a sort of cocoon and a tomb. I am very interested in the processes of birth and death and rebirth. Lying inside, the sculpture provokes a sense of entrapment as well as being comfortably held. It is a sort of frozen moment in time, a state of being alive which will soon be broken down and reassembled. Lying on a hard surface for two hours is quite uncomfortable, but as with all performances, I become fairly detached from myself as the performer, and instead feel like the body is simply a vessel through which the art is being performed.
Rachel Garrard: VESSEL is on show until October 19 at the Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunnert gallery, New York.