Hugo Barclay

Rebecca Byrne

Hugo Barclay
Rebecca Byrne

Rebecca Byrne

Rebecca Byrne | American visual artists based in London

2012 MA Fine Art, The Chelsea College of Art And Design, London, UK
2010 Post Graduate Diploma Fine Art, The Chelsea College of Art And Design, London, UK

You mentioned you had kids, how do you manage your time?

We muddle along.  My kids are quite old now - 18 and going to university.  Over the last 10 years, they have been following me around.  But somehow you figure it out.  On school breaks they’d come to the studio with me.  It does mean a lot of hard work and days of exhaustion.  This is an exciting time for me because I no longer have to worry about studying and homework.


What does your studio routine look like?

On the days I’m not working, I stay as long as I want. Typically, I roll in at noon and am here until 10 at night. That’s my habit, in the morning there’s always something to deal with and get done, I wouldn’t get it done at the end of the day. Plus I get stuck in, I’m more of a night person too.


Tell me more about getting stuck in?

It's weird, I think most artists have a similar sort of experience. You enter into this zone where time doesn’t matter.  You aren’t thinking about anything else, such as emails you haven’t returned or making dinner, just nothing.

What’s your opinion on the function of art in society?

I think it’s what makes us all human. It’s such a privilege, when others are battling to survive and you can make something that can give someone a nice moment.  My friend is involved with a charity called Hospital Rooms, which invites artists to transform spaces in mental health facilities.  That’s art being used for an incredible cause.  For me it’s so critical for a society to function in a humane and loving way. It can also get people to think politically. 


How long have you been doing these different styles?

I was diagnosed with an illness and so couldn’t keep doing the huge metal sculptures I had been doing, since I couldn’t lift more than 20 pounds. I was about to start my MA in sculpture at the Art Institute. I ended up stopping for a long time, and then I started drawing again.  Someone said if you can draw like that, surely you can paint. So I really only started painting about 10 years ago.


What is the most challenging aspect of being an artist? 

I think the most challenging thing was changing my practice from sculpture to painting. I wasn’t thinking in terms of colour, maybe that’s why I like to work with predominantly one colour in a series.  


How do you promote your work?

Right now, I'm in love with Instagram, I am comfortable posting images of my work there and it is interesting to get the feedback

Mind Map 29, Oil on Linen, 27 x 35 cm, 2012

Mind Map 29, Oil on Linen, 27 x 35 cm, 2012

What do you say when people ask you what you do for a living?

I say I’m an artist, and then I say that I work part time in a gallery.


What kind of artist?

I say I’m a painter, but it’s funny in the States if you said you were an artist, people ask what you really do.  There’s so much more appreciation for artists and musicians in this country.  Some UK artists I speak to don’t feel that way but they should see what’s it like in the States!


I wonder if it’s harder to be a successful artist in the States?

Maybe. It was interesting when we moved over, we noticed there are lots more people doing what I’m doing - muddling along, trying to pay for my studio. I guess the US is divided up into all different areas with different characters to them. So the stereotype in the mid-west is to be very practical and hardworking.  But maybe at a party in New York, if you said you were an artist, it would be more appreciated.


If you had a magic wand and could change anything in the industry what would it be?

Everyone would have enough time and space to make their work.  That’s what everyone wants and needs.

Mind Map Installed, Oil on Linen, 235 x 190 cm, 2012

Mind Map Installed, Oil on Linen, 235 x 190 cm, 2012

Looking back, what would you say you’re most proud of?

Having the courage to move here and do this. People told me I was insane.  Why would I uplift my life like this.  My kids were 11 years old, so it was a big thing for everyone.


What did you do in that period when you weren’t creating?

I kept drawing, and then I opened a little shop in Chicago that only sold things made by artists.  People loved hearing about the artists, it was great too because I could recommend their website. I did that for about 7 years and then went back and did my MA.


How has your painting evolved over the years?

I’m much more free, so it’s probably becoming much more experimental with materials.  Before I was always thinking about how it was supposed to work, but now I like to do things you’re not supposed to do and see what happens.


What advice would you say to yourself prior to your MA?

I would say not to be so careful.  Take more risks, sooner.  And don’t feel like you can’t do that because you’ve got a family. There were these thoughts in my head that certain doors were closed to me. Then I think I woke up and realised I could do it anyway. 


How would you describe the message you want the viewer to receive when they view your work? 

I would like it to take them on their own journey. I love the idea that you don’t need to tell someone everything, because then they don’t get their own unique experience from it. 

What is your definition of success?

To be able to show my work. I never think of selling it, just getting it out in the world.  


You're an artist but you work part time at a gallery, so you have this access point of two perspectives.  Has this influenced your work at all? 

It frees me up a lot because the gallery is funded by Windsor and Newton, so I’m lucky if there are extra materials around which I can experiment with.  I use all sort of paint, every brand under the sun. I also meet people I wouldn’t meet otherwise.

Are you in London and interested in organising artist studio visits and discovering the active emerging art scene?