Rachel Rothwell is a mixed media artist from Wexford, Ireland and joined the Daejeon Arts Collective in 2014. With a background in ceramics she has been travelling the world broadening her repertoire, whilst examining the human need for self definition. Her work is layered, having an almost architectural quality and requires the viewer to engage with issues of identity, self, and one’s place in the world. She’s currently living in Montreux, Switzerland. We decided to check in to see what she’s been up to.
Can you tell us about your work and what inspires you?
Rachel Rothwell: My work is primarily based on the process of self definition. Humans have this fascinating desire to explain themselves to the world, and the possessions and processes we go through in order to create a sense of self is the driving force behind my artwork. Travel has worked it’s way into my work in the last few years, and my more recent work touches on the theme of living abroad, and how that impacts on identity.
I mainly work with abstract images, and use a variety of media to create my pieces. Natural forms often appear in my work, they provide a backdrop to the geometric shapes and lines. Materials and process are important to me, I enjoy using found materials and often embroider my work. The time taken to sow into the layers of paper and ink is very important to me, the repetitive process mimicking the constant line of enquiry in the human brain.
Did living in Korea have any profound impact on your work?
RR: Living in Korea had an enormous effect on my artwork. Moving to a country the other side of the world was always going to be a huge experience, but I believe I underestimated the impact the culture, heritage and people would have on me. Living so far from the comforts of home, and comparing your new environment to your home triggers a reassessment of identity, of place, and of the meaning of ‘home’, which fed directly into the line my work is currently following.
The experience also had a massive impact on my imagery, materials and process. Beforehand I had worked mostly in 3D, building ceramic sculptures but without access to a kiln I was forced to be more flexible with my media, looking at methods which were portable and easy to create without ready access to an art studio, as well as incorporating found materials into my pieces.
What have you been up to since leaving Korea and what has the transition been like?
RR: Leaving Korea has been a massive change! I flitted between Ireland and travelling for the first couple of months, and found settling down again difficult. The mental image you keep of a country when you are abroad is always an altered version of the one you come home to! I love the landscape and the colours of Ireland, but I missed teaching and when the opportunity came up to move to Switzerland in June I took it straight away.
Switzerland has been another adjustment, with the job, language and culture, but I thoroughly enjoy living here and am still in awe of the beautiful scenery; the country seems to blend into the mountains and lakes without scarring their form.
I still enjoy coming home during school breaks, I will be exhibiting in Dublin in April so I’m busy preparing for that at the moment; and then I will be going to Finland in July to complete an artist residency there. Moving between countries has become a strong component of my work, so I suppose it makes sense that I can’t sit still!
Born in Wexford, Ireland in 1990, Rachel Rothwell studied ceramics at the Limerick School of Art and Design. In 2013 she travelled to South Korea, living in Daejeon for 12 months, where she was an active member of both the Daejeon Arts Collective and the Professional Artist Network Korea (PANK), exhibiting regularly around the country.
Since June 2015 she has been living and working in Montreux, Switzerland. Her work focuses on the process of self definition, exploring the external factors that influence us as we try to make sense of who we are. This varies from the material factors such as possessions; to less tangible influences, that may shape the version of ourselves we choose to present to the world. She uses a variety of materials to create abstract drawings, presenting her observations without judgement. She has exhibited in several locations in Ireland, as well as across South Korea.