In recent years I felt a fierce yearning to paint again, in part to process grief and loss, but also due to the immense sensory pleasure of making. My art education took place decades ago, yet the traces of that experience have remained an integral part of my journey. Since I reactivated my painting practice, I was fortunate to join Zuleika Gallery in 2022, where my work has been exhibited. 


For me, it was a raw need to dive deeply into my own vulnerability that gave me the courage to start to paint again. I find painting a form of articulating and interpretating the contours of experiences on my own terms. The poet Ted Hughes said, “Every work of art stems from a wound in the soul of the artists… Art is a psychological component of the auto-immune system that gives expression to the healing process.” 


My paintings hover between abstraction and a recognisable presence. I see each as an intimate portrait. They embrace and probe at my sense of femininity and the complex cluster of feelings that entails. There are centres of tension and depth within an orchestration of sparseness and calm. There is imbalance next to poise, floating and sinking, vulnerability but with teeth.


I have been building a series of paintings that explore both human and environmental fragility. I am curious about the relationship with my internal body and the external, in the form of clothing and textiles - deconstructing elements of fabric, pattern cutting, stitching, shape, line, texture, space. The narrative within the work is suggestive and open to discovery. Fluttering, shrouded veils, bandages or patches hide or reveal. Fabric or screens may appear torn or ripped. Scar tissue or open voids linger. Traces of stitches and repairs heal and nurture. A sense of bindings, cages, or leaden weights give way to notes of elevation, weightlessness, flight. Are they protecting or do they confine? The language of signs or symbols, perhaps shielding talismans, weave in and out. Areas of light quiver and flicker. Ripples of colour glow or perish. How these parts shift and morph fascinate me and are themes that form a common thread as I progress onward. 


I have also felt an urge to capture the delicate beauty of coral and its endangered, shifting underwater eco-system under the relentless stress, trauma, and destruction from humanity’s impact on the planet. I have explored a ghostly stillness in dialogue with areas of agitation in the paintings, and a sense of sleepwalking towards catastrophe.


My painting process is that of patiently and delicately building up thin layers of oil paint on canvas, forms lying over forms, feeling nearer or further away in relation to one another. Past ages of paint disappear and edges dissolve, or I will rub back to reveal the history that has been. I savour the handling of paint. The pulsating mark making will then contrast with a rhythmic movement of washes of colour that stain or move across the plane. The paintings emerge. They need time. I naturally like to work on a larger scale as I am drawn to a vital physicality in the act of painting.


Rebekah Tuluie

April 2024