Artist Feature ://
Posted December 2019
Rachel Singel is an Assistant Professor at the University of Louisville. Rachel grew up on a small farm in Charlottesville, Virginia. She received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Virginia in 2009 and a Masters of Fine Arts in Printmaking from the University of Iowa in 2013. Rachel has participated in residencies at the Penland School of Crafts, the Venice Printmaking Studio, Internazionale di Grafica Venezia, and Art Print Residence in Barcelona, Spain. She has studied non-toxic printmaking at the Grafisk Eksperimentarium studio in Andalusia and recently continued her research at Wharepuke Print Studios in New Zealand. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and represented in private, public and museum collections.
‘Lily Leaves’, Rachel Singel. Intaglio (on Handmade Mitsumata Paper), 2017
Q. How do you decide the compositions and the materials for your work?
My imagery comes from what I see in nature. My process usually involves taking long walks in forests and meadows and taking photographs, with my compositions weighing heavily on those forms where there is a circle around which other forms radiate.
Afterwards, I translate these photographs into etchings on copper. This approach allows me to make very fine lines to render details. While I know I can never draw the number of lines needed to capture the complexity of the organic surfaces, the copper plate gives me the option of forever going back to add more content.
“As long as there is copper, there is hope.” ~ Roger Lacourière
‘Seed Pods’, Rachel Singel. Intaglio, 2016
Q. As well as absence, fragility seems to play a large role in your work, both in terms of line and material. Is this intentional?
Yes, in the sense that as an artist with ecological concerns, I am always striving to identify, learn, and put into practice ways to replace current chemical and physical hazards with non-toxic materials. These efforts, I hope, make less of a negative impact on the environment and emphasize the intricacy, beauty, and value of the natural world and how important it is to protect it.
Q. There is an interesting relationship between infinite space and the ephemeral nature of your subject, how do you balance these two contrasts?
While beginning with a specific image of a vine, unfurling fern, fungi, etc., the work is overtaken by the idea of potentially limitless growth. I believe that working on copper is what makes it possible for me to reveal both infinite space and ephemerality. That is, the more I print a plate, the lines progressively fade and so I must continue to add more lines to define the subject. This process is ongoing and the plate starts to become a visual record of the passage of time and the cycle of decay and rebirth as it exists in nature.
‘Nest’, Rachel Singel.Intaglio (on Handmade Pineapple Paper), 2016
‘Lilies’, Rachel Singel. Intaglio (on Handmade Gampi Paper), 2017
‘Stones’, Rachel Singel. Intaglio (on Handmade Pinapple Paper), 2018
Q. Do you have any advice for someone who is starting out in print and is wanting to create work as detailed as your pieces?
Definitely! As an undergraduate, I was advised to take printmaking because I loved creating detailed drawings and this is possible using a number of printmaking processes. However, what made me really want to continue with printmaking was because I was inspired by a saying that my Professor at the University of Virginia, Dean Dass, quoting Elizabeth King (Professor Emerita at VCU), would always tell students, “Process rescues us from the poverty of our intentions.” I realised that the media and steps taken in the making of a drawing has a way of guiding the artist into new ways of working. Because printmaking has so many different processes, it allows many opportunities for problem solving and uncovering new approaches, which in turn I have found lends itself to artistic growth.
Q. If you could go on a countryside walk with an artist, who would it be, where would you take them and why?
If I could go on a countryside walk with an artist, it be with Georgia O’Keeffe around my family’s property in Charlottesville, Virginia. I love natural forms and have always been inspired by O'Keeffe's images of flowers and bones. I often find specimens similar to those in her work on the property, like cow bones and shells, and use them in my own work. I know that O’Keeffe found inspiration in the New Mexico desert and I would appreciate the chance to share with her the place that most inspires me.
"I had to create an equivalent for what I felt about what I was looking at - not copy it.” ~ Georgia O'Keeffe
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