Rachel Camilleri works intuitively to capture the emotions felt in everyday life. She takes inspiration from what is around her, from music and street art to the architecture found in her home town of Manchester. She plays with the emotional qualities of colour, applying paint freely, with each movement dictating her next step. Art is Rachel’s form of therapy, helping her to release and process emotion.
My art process is very much a journey. Each mark and colour dictates what the next move will be.
I love the vibrancy of your work, where do you find inspiration? And what message do you seek to convey with your art?
Life is my inspiration. Life experiences shape the way I feel and that is expressed in my paintings. I’m influenced by everything around me; my home town of Manchester, places I visit, music, nature, architecture, street art and interior design.
I love the emotional quality of colour and how it has a powerful effect on people. I wouldn’t say there’s an overarching message within my work. My only hope is that my art creates emotion and makes people question it and want to know more about it.
Walk us through your creative process … What are the different stages of your work?
I have a very impulsive and intuitive approach to my work. I don’t always have a plan – I will have colours in mind and a visual of how I’d like the painting to look, however from experience, I know that this visual doesn’t always come to fruition. My art process is very much a journey. Each mark and colour dictates what the next move will be.
Sometimes I like to listen to music before I paint, usually a few days before and then I tend to paint in silence but with a certain track running through my mind. This often influences my colour choice, mark making and the speed in which I paint. Other times, my urge to create comes purely from something I’ve seen or felt rather than driven by music.
Depending on the style of the painting I either work standing up or with the canvas on the floor. My mark making and movement changes depending on the positioning.
Which materials do you like to use?
I mainly use acrylic and spray paint and various squeegees to apply the medium. I use a pulling and scraping technique for the majority of my artworks. I like to mix the two mediums together to create certain effects. I also like to use stencils to create the illusion of texture and to give added depth. I spend a lot of time looking for unusual tools that will create interesting marks when applying the mediums.
I only ever work on one painting at a time. I think the reason for this is that my paintings are emotionally charged and I become very consumed by them during the process. Even when I’m not in the studio I spend a lot of time thinking about the painting I’m working on and figuring out what my next move will be.
I have read that you like to create large movements to create energy, what does movement and layering mean for you?
I like my art to make a statement and I find using big expressive movements gives me those bold and confident marks. Layering creates those unexpected and interesting marks and texture that give the painting that something extra.
What does colour mean to you? And how do you decide on your colour palette?
Colour is so powerful! It’s one of the most important factors when creating my artwork. Colour is the first thing I notice when looking at the world around me and I am usually drawn to other artists’ work from the type of colours they use and how they compliment and contrast their colour palette.
I feel free… I literally feel like I am pouring out every last bit of emotion onto the canvas.
Do you have any art rituals?
I have to have a warm studio! I’ve got to feel comfortable within my creative space as my art does involve large and expressive movements.
I spend a lot of time looking at my art. I sometimes place my art in my home and spend a few days just catching glances of it as I’m going about my day. That usually guides me in knowing what the next move will be or whether the painting is finished.
If I’m feeling uninspired I simply take time away in order to refuel and re spark my imagination. It never takes long to feel inspired and ready to paint.
All I Do
I have a very impulsive and intuitive approach to my work.
Art can be a form of therapy for many, how do you feel when you create art?
I feel free… I literally feel like I am pouring out every last bit of emotion onto the canvas. And it feels amazing. I know exactly when I need to paint as I get a frustrating sense of restraint within me and once I paint that feeling goes away. Art is definitely my therapy.
What role does art play in supporting your well-being? And how have you found the art community’s response to these uncertain times?
Art has kept me focused and positive during these uncertain times. I think the art community has adapted amazingly. Artists have been painting at home if they can’t get to their studios. Art Galleries have created virtual exhibitions and competitions which have been brilliant for artists around the world. The UK art community has contributed enormously to support our NHS staff during this pandemic. I have personally been involved in a charity auction to raise money for ‘Artists for the NHS’ and I’m currently featured on The Whisper Gallery’s Art Unlocked virtual exhibition which donates 25% of any sales to ‘Art for Heroes’. It’s great to see how we have adapted so well.
What feelings and reactions do you hope to evoke in the viewer?
I don’t like to dictate what the viewer feels. I want them to take away their own thoughts and feelings on my work – whether that be positive or negative. Every person’s reaction to any painting is unique and people see very different things in abstract works. My only hope is that the viewer feels something. I would hate for them to feel nothing.
What are your hopes and dreams as an artist?
To keep painting, keep connecting with great people and hopefully keep selling my work. Art is my passion so I will continue painting regardless, however selling my art gives me an amazing feeling.
What can we look out for?
Before lockdown I was looking forward to my first solo exhibition at ‘The Lowry Hotel’ in Manchester through Comme Ca Art Gallery. Unfortunately due to Covid-19 my exhibition had to be postponed, but hopefully once everything goes back to normal this will go ahead. I really want people to see my art in real life rather than on a picture on social media.
To view more of Rachel’s work: