In the Studio with Rebecca Sammon

Rebecca is a visual artist whose bold, poetic pieces pulse with vibrant immediacy. Her works are inspired by abstracted elements of nature at play with human forms within imagined landscapes, moving from suggestions of mythical narrative into the more ambiguous, fluid space of uncertainty. We met with Rebecca to tell us more about growing up in Manchester, and unexpected sources of inspiration.

When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist? 

I would say only in the last year. I felt I was an artist at age 17 but then went to art school – my course was Critical Fine Art Practice at Brighton and it made me feel alienated from making art, I left university and worked in the fashion industry until 2016 when I left it all behind to travel and from that point on I have made work pretty much every day. 

Where are you from and what was your upbringing like? How has this impacted your work?

I grew up in Wigan, Greater Manchester as a family we also spent time every year in Connemara on the west coast of Ireland (half my family is from there), from a young age my experiences there filled me with a love for nature and mythology. There is a mystery and intrigue layered within the place for me which always comes to mind as a place for my imaginary characters to exist.

 Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. What inspired you to first pursue, and then continue to practice, artistic work? Was there a pivotal moment when you felt you were on the right track?

When I left London to travel, I started on my artistic journey again – I took a case of art supplies and set up makeshift studios along the way, I drew from temples and strange landscapes. I spent the most time in Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Nepal and Myanmar and snippets of memories from all these places continue to inspire my work now . The uniquely strange and wonderful Myanmar was so inspiring, I particularly loved Bagan – the city is quite dusty which creates a hazy mist that fills the air and diffuses the light – at sunset the whole place has a kind of mystical light that covers all the ancient temples and I would love to bring a feeling to my work similar to that I experienced in these spaces. 


What’s the message of your work? Where do they come from? How would you describe your aesthetic?

I create figurative pieces influenced by snippets of mythology and symbolism reworked into new stories. The pieces are often led by certain narratives or ideas which become disjointed when merged with motifs and details from other places. I don’t want to create purely narrative pieces – it’s the feeling of something off balance or unexpected that I feel transports my figures away from a truly representational scene. Colour is also very important to me and I love working with combinations that take the figures into another world. 

Who and what are your greatest influences?

My influences vary from week to week with so many amazing artists out there, Diane Dal Pra’s work blows me away. Overall though, I always find myself going back to look at Old Masters paintings for inspiration and always love, Botticelli, Piero Della Francesca, Andrea Mantegna, and Veronese and I always find something new in these works. 

An unexpected source of inspiration?

I still go back to photos I took of wall paintings in abandoned Bagan temples – I spent so much time there and found them incredibly beautiful – most of the temples were completely abandoned and you could go and spend time there with ancient wall paintings that would usually be viewed through glass. 

What do you want people to take from your work when they view it? Do you have the audience consciously in mind when you are creating?

I usually don’t have the audience in mind when creating but as a piece progresses I often encourage the expression of my figures to interact with the viewer, I often work and rework expressions in faces to create areas of the piece that are direct and engaging.

What events in your life have mobilised change in your practise/aesthetic? How has your art evolved? Do you experiment? 

I think the last year has been the biggest one for me and I’m so grateful that I have had my artwork to fill my time this year. The time in multiple lockdowns has allowed me to focus and build on my aesthetic. I am experimenting with other materials on the side but for the moment my main experimenting is in building composition using the materials I work with more regularly.

What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?

Ideal conditions vary for me. I usually listen to music for drawing as music can help me get into the right state of mind, great music can really lead the drawing, once it’s at a stage where I am working with colour and adding details I tend to switch to a film – maybe one I have already seen that plays in the background that isn’t too distracting, otherwise I listen to podcasts – whatever keeps me glued to the studio works best. 

Tell us about the inspiration behind one of your  works?

I have a fascination with antique astronomy maps and have been working on a series of drawings influenced by these. I use these maps as references to sketch from and then later create pieces where ideas from the observational drawings seep in. ‘Deep Blue Sky’ was a piece I drew from imagination triggered by the idea of creating a new kind of constellation scene with figures floating in the skies.

Something in the future you hope to explore?

I am starting to work on some larger oil paintings with multiple figures. This is new for me but it’s great to be experimenting with something new and I am enjoying the feeling of working on a larger scale.