by Grady Mitchell | Artist Rebecca Chaperon builds worlds. “I’m obsessed with a sense of place,” she says. “If I don’t have a sense of place when I’m working on a painting, everything else doesn’t feel natural.” The places she creates are not ones you’ll find on a globe, even if they’re inspired by them. In her last major series, Antarticus, she concocted an alternate reality where translucent icebergs float like ghosts upon pastel oceans, disembodied hands reach from black portals, and rainbow confetti flutters through the air.
With Antarticus she sought to conflate two very different real-world places: Mauritius, the pinprick tropical island off Madagascar where her father was born, and antartica, as conjured from letters written by her uncle while he led expeditions there in the 70s. Hence, you’ll see icebergs sailing past tropical islands and palm trees sprouting from tundra. That imaginative streak is inspired largely by her early years in England, where she lived until age 8, playing in the small garden in front of her family’s home.
Her next series, Eccentric Gardens, centers on another fully-formed world, but this time Rebecca changed the process of building it. Rather than the planned approach she’s taken in the past, she took a more intuitive method, a way of ‘discovering’ the landscapes as she painted them.
So was releasing that control scary? “Hell yes,” she says. “Everything felt almost dumb because I’m so used to over-analyzing. I just had to move forward through the pieces, all the elements had to talk to each other and I had to get out of the way. It’s a return to this childish way of picture making, you’re really direct, responding to what’s there, not thinking about it too much. But to do that as an adult is very difficult. To pretend, for a moment, that you’re a kid. You’re just enjoying making something, and it doesn’t have to be anything.”
The Eccentric Gardens exhibition, which will run at Initial Gallery from October 24 to November 15 with a reception on Oct 28, won’t just allow people to view Rebecca’s work, but also the chance to step inside one of her paintings. One wall will be painted in her landscape style, and certain elements from her paintings have been turned into sculptures that will furnish the room. To learn more about Rebecca and her work, visit her site.