Rachael Archibald explores a secular spiritual identity by composing visceral ambience for disenchanting realities. It manifests visually and sometimes musically. 4-10 December 2017, Rachael showed us her new investigations and experiments into textures and decoration on our Instagram @inresidence_ari.
Interviewed by Isabel Hood.
Isabel Hood: Your work is introduced to us as an exploration of ‘secular spiritual identity’. What’s the intention behind distinguishing between your work as secular instead of faith lead spirituality?
Rachael Archibald: I have no faith. But I have an emotional response to reality: nature, art and music. And I’m wondering what this is. It’s a spirituality that has no doctrine or specific higher power, whatever you personally find to be sacred. I’d say it is more aligned with Spiritual Naturalism while not wanting to identify with that either. Spiritual Naturalism is a very broad philosophy but basically it's the continuation of spirituality after the abandonment of superstition. Particularly if it’s in opposition to science or nature.
IH: The post that contains the reference to Mosque decorating is an interesting quote. Can you discuss how this relates to your work? Is your practise a retaliation to this idea? I could see from both perspectives correlations.
RA: Honestly I was going to have more quotes but I was really busy that week haha. I wanted to research spirituality and decoration and I got a far as reading a part of an essay called “Rationalising the permissibility of mosque decoration” by Spahic Omer. It talks about the Prophet Muhammad’s denouncement of ornamentation and then questions how it is that mosques are actually so highly decorated. I’ve read it all now and it goes on to say that the permissibility of decoration occurs in “principle because pursuing beauty and appreciating beautiful objects are innate in man”. The kind of decoration they employ is used to exemplify the infinity of God (repeating patterns) and the arabesque calligraphy is both decorative and functional, reciting text from the Qur’an. Hence if the decoration functions towards the worship of God it is allowed.
From the quote I mentioned on the post “...he is reported to have said that whenever a people’s performance weakens, they then start decorating their mosques”, my interest is not in retaliating this idea, but using it to ask why humans do decorate? Is it a weakness? Is to be closer to something godly or natural? Decoration as distraction from life or to notice it more?
Questioning the purpose of art, my art. What is my decoration without religious symbolism or religious doctrine?
IH: You make a point of your work being secular in terms of spirituality; however, do you still borrow religious ideas, themes or imagery from other faiths - like the Mosque decorating quote?
RA: I don’t use ideas or imagery from other faiths, it’s more of a parallel interest. A very non-academic ethnographic research where I just watch lots of documentaries and wonder at the beauty of other cultures’ artworks and decorative architecture. Because faith is so inherent with cultural artifacts, especially ancient cultures, and places of worship are so well preserved in modern times, maybe it’s the best place to see the art of an ancient era.
IH: The employment of layers, texture and pattern are clear devices in your work. How do your experiments with these motifs manifest as atmospheric and defamiliarised realities?
RA: Going back to Spiritual Naturalism, I’m most influenced by patterns in nature where things build on each other, take over each other and form a system of multiple lives overlapping. Some starting to live and others degrading. Same with humans, where you can see the layers of different people and their differing lives overlap on the walls of buildings etc. I think that’s the defamiliarisation. The evidence of multiple people amalgamated into a cloudy texture. There was something there but you can’t quite tell what it was.
IH: Does music also play a part in visualising these layers, patterns and feelings of ambience?
RA: It doesn’t add to the imagery specifically but they both are made from the same place. My music is made with the same method of textural overlapping. Creating busy noise from many separate elements, it’s the same visually. If I were to visualise my music it would look like a mess of textures that come together through an innate sense of finding harmony amongst the clutter.
IH: You share with us references to natural textures you find. Can you describe the process you go to in order to find them? Is it more often happy coincidences that they present themselves to you day-to-day or are they a more intentional discovery?
RA: Always happy accidents but I’m probably always looking for them without knowing it. Once you start looking at details they appear to you all the time and you kind of forget the bigger picture. It helps me deal with the weight of existence, it’s too immense and overwhelming. If I can break it down into smaller parts I can understand it better.
IH: Are all textures taken from IRL photographs or do you have harvest from online imagery or software?
RA: They’re all photos I’ve taken myself but I do use some photoshop patterns intertwined with the real photos. The photos are usually the starting point for the final image.
IH: We love how each artist uses the takeover experience differently. How has the process of making an artwork each day been? Is the expectancy of having to make something daily for a public forum stressful at all?
RA: It was very stressful but in a way that I enjoy. I might never make anything if there weren’t a deadline. I wish I wasn’t busy with my other life commitments so I could have been more attentive to my initial idea to research and post more information with the images.
The public forum doesn’t bother me though. I’ve been making digital art for years now and I’ve developed an nonchalant attitude to posting my art online. I think the frequency with which I post material makes it easier to be less precious about it. Also I’ve developed and aesthetic that I can achieve easily and I know what is good or bad, for Instagram anyway. I find writing very stressful though and I’ve procrastinated on these questions for weeks.
IH: What’s planned for 2018? Do you have any upcoming shows?
RA: No shows planned. I’d like to make more music, my art practice seems to be transforming in that direction. Try to make less digital art and more tangible art also. I think that’s why I’m making music, it's a slightly more tangible form of the art I’m making.
See more of Rachael Archibald's work here.
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