This summer Jerwood Gallery presents British artist, Rachel Howard, for her largest solo public gallery exhibition in the UK. The artist was Damien Hirst’s first spot painter, in the 1990s, she was Hirst’s first assistant, today the artist juggles a life as a sheep farmer, mother of four and generally declines interviews.
But the artist broke her silence and told the Guardian: “We were mates and he needed someone to paint spots, and I was waitressing and I didn’t want a proper job – so I ended up working for him to earn enough money to make my own work,” she says. “It was a very good symbiotic relationship.” The artist continued “I was the only assistant … there was only me. It wasn’t a factory then” – in fact Howard is regarded by Hirst as the best painter of his trademark spot paintings.
Now the artist’s distinctive, abstract works have been globally recognised and are held in many prestigious international art collections. Howard paints a multitude of human experiences and emotions and, for the Jerwood exhibition in Hastings, has created a significant body of new work. Over a dozen new paintings, ranging from large-scale canvases to smaller works, alter the rules of how the medium of oil paint is approached. With certain works drawing on maritime themes to investigate the sense of being at odds with the world.
Rachel says ‘I grew up on a farm near the sea on the North East coast of England, and having a permanent horizon every day to look at gives a wonderful reassurance in what can be at times a very uncertain world. My show at Jerwood Gallery explores both these aspects of certainty and uncertainty.’ In addition to the exhibition, Howard has curated a one-room display which showcases some of the artist’s favourite works from the Jerwood Collection. Rachel Howard: At Sea is part of the gallery’s summer Festival of the Sea.
Rachel Howard: At Sea – Jerwood Gallery – until 4 October 2015