Suicide is a reoccurring subject matter within the drawings and figurative paintings of Rachel Howard, whose body of work is directly concerned with exploring the intricacies of what it means to be human, considering our capacity to feel, think, question, hurt, breakdown, worship, sin, rebel or conform. Howard is a painter of life, exploring the subjectivity of perception and the complexity of our emotional spectrum. Suicide evolved as a theme in her artwork as a result of personal experience and emotions after a friend committed suicide. Particularly the kneeling, almost prayer-like pose in which her friend was found appears to have haunted her most, emanated through her art.
Howard investigates the aesthetics of suicide, through faceless figures, the body and the symbolic, lone ‘Black Dog’ abstracted from their contexts. The subjects stand alone, almost silhouette-like, imposed against a bleak background. Rapidly executed line drawings form the basis of her paintings, which often exploit the fluid movement of paint combined with gravity as her paintbrush. The black lines and shapes of figures appear to be dragged or dripping downwards or into the canvas, as if on the verge of disappearing completely, dangerously close to ceasing to exist even as an image, slipping away from the painted representation, leaving an almost immaterial macabre trace of a body. A juxtaposition between violence and beauty, the intimate and the distant is created. Howard’s strikingly sombre yet compelling images are undoubtedly emotionally charged through the state of mind and body inscribed through her expressionist application of paint/ink.
The creation of these pieces formulate a psychological and physical battle, which demonstrates a necessity for emotionally articulate art with something significant to say about the poignancy and tragedy of the human condition.
About the writer
Tara is an Art Foundation and History of Art graduate born and bred in London. She has travelled the globe extensively, immersing herself in the vibrant arts and cultures the world has to offer, and hopes her next adventure will take her to India! She is currently teaching English as a foreign language whilst enjoying volunteering at Art on a Postcard, and she hopes to break into the art world!