It is actually in these moments where one expects infallible heroism I enjoy exploring mistakes or awkwardness.Rebecca Munce
The following interview forms part of a series where I invite a number of contemporary artists to each reflect on their personal history, meaning and philosophy, and how those are expressed throughout their creative process.
This week I talk to Rebecca Munce, a painter whose archetypal works are a “vehicle to communicate nostalgia”, the “naivety of memory”, as well as some “unknowing, absurdity and vulnerability”.
Archetypes and mythology feature heavily in your works. At this point in time, which archetype or mythical folklore most resonates with you as an artist?
For a long time I resonated most with the Hydra, this seven-headed beast in a state of constant conflict with its surroundings. Currently that seems to be shifting, I’ve been drawn to traveller archetypes, wanderers with nimble hands and shaky legs. Usually they seem to be lost, falling into conflict or divine interactions. This reminds me of texts like Milton’s Paradise Lost or Voltaire’s Candide; which always seems to find a way into my studio practice in various permutations.
In a previous interview you describe your style as a way of expressing some “unknowing, absurdity and vulnerability”. What does it mean to you to be vulnerable as an artist?
I think vulnerability for me is to simply communicate honestly when interacting with the grandiosity mythology and folklore often provide. It is actually in these moments where one expects infallible heroism I enjoy exploring mistakes or awkwardness. By exploring these qualities in the figures I portray there’s room for me to express my own anxieties or lack of certainty.
Are you guided by any essential philosophy in your creative expression?
This is a great question. Currently I find myself guided to see empathetic qualities in any being I portray. That there are no hard fast rules as to what is a redeemable figure and what is a damnable one. For that reason I am always trying to create scenes that hold more confusion than a clear moral dualism. Sometimes that doesn’t happen and power dynamics seem clear in the moment. But it’s important to me that these creatures have the ability to disengage in their assumed roles and wander off, kiss their enemies, or take a nap.
Which work of art do you wish you could erase from your mind so that you could relive experiencing it for the first time?
It’s perhaps cliché and romantic, but it was this drawing I made when I was 15. Until that point, I remember trying to copy magazine covers for some reason and I was so frustrated. I got nothing from portraying these models and felt I wasn’t much of a drawer. Then I made this drawing of these strange fantastical beings set in an environment of oddly shaped rock formations. It was the opposite of everything I had been forcing myself to do up until that point. It was this world of my own where I could dictate what was correct or not. I could make things up and weirdly they felt more accurate. I remember drawing and in that moment a big shiver crept down my back. I’d relive that sensation and I’m grateful I still get the opportunity to.
Do you believe there are limits to human creativity?
Honestly I don’t think there are limits to human creativity. Throughout history with various inventions and evolutions we have been expanding beyond limits placed, to our benefit and downfall at times. There have always been limits of perception which seem so certain until it’s wholeheartedly disproved. This seems to happen over and over. So for me it is a strange dance between certainty and unknowing, a constant and at times slightly nauseating process. I think holding limitations allows us to feel grounded which is important, but it just doesn’t seem to be the overall pattern of our existence.
If you were to design a new artwork that emulated your current experience of the world, what might it include?
I think it would probably include a level of solitude, a retreat into greenery without evidence of a civilization. Lots of pools of reflective water to bathe in or drown. I would perhaps double a figure to have fun interactions with the self. So maybe a kind of hermit in the company of themselves always, having huge mind altering revelations witnessed by no one in particular. I’m sure there is a civilization continuing elsewhere, but this figure pays no mind, hammering out the existential details of their existence until they feel a sense of certainty or liberty. To what end, who knows really. Oh, and lots of flowers.