Drawing inspiration on-stage

As we drove out to local artist Rebecca Cunningham’s Currumbin Valley abode I couldn’t help but feel humbled. Passing the rock pools and community farm, the primary school and paddock after paddock; it’s no question where her inspiration comes from. Over the past few years Rebecca has been painting live, exploring Australia and living in Melbourne. Now she has returned to the Gold Coast with inspiration and excitement.

I take a look around the one bedroom nook while her and her dad fiddle with the washing machine. She asks me if I would like to make some tea, telling me there’s gotu kola, spearmint and rosemary growing in the pots at the door.

We sit down with a view of the valley and I’m lost in the way Rebecca speaks about her art. She began drawing animals at a young age, a theme that is still evident in her work today, and reminisces about her first piece of artwork. It wasn’t until high school however that she picked up a paintbrush.

“I started painting when I was 15, I did my first proper painting then. I think the thing that hadn’t allowed me to paint was that all I needed was someone to teach me how to blend colours.”

After a substitute teacher in her high school art class helped her to paint the sky, it was all systems go. The sky and clouds play major roles in much of Rebecca’s artwork and her ability to portray emotion in the movement and colour of clouds is incredible.

“It’s a really healing, meditative form of painting for me. I always start a painting with the sky and that’s the basis of the mood of the painting. It’s the platform for me to just express whatever emotions are coming out in the painting.”

Rebecca draws inspiration from landscapes and the environment and has spent a lot of time painting desert landscapes and exploring the idea of time.

“I’d never been to the desert before and for me, the desert represents that complete clarity in space and time… and that aloneness. The ability to be still in a timeless place.”

Rebecca has held several exhibitions on the Gold Coast combining her love of art, animals and nature with music and before packing up her life here in 2012 to move to Melbourne, she held an exhibition of purely Bob Dylan portraits with local musician Evan Manttari (and a few guests) playing Bob Dylan songs.

During this period Rebecca experimented, using ink as her major medium for the exhibition. She explains how there is no control over using ink so every creation is unique and unexpected.

“It was the first exhibition where I actually created artwork for the event so that was a really different experience.

“It was amazing to be able to dive into someone’s world and for 6 weeks I only listened to Bob Dylan, I read Bob Dylan books, I watched documentaries and his face was what I was painting all the time. It was really amazing to get to know someone and fall in love with different aspects of their life.”

Visiting home over Christmas 6 months after moving to Melbourne, Rebecca held another exhibition at Honey & Brioche café in Miami. This one focused on animal dreaming, drawing inspiration from Scott Alexander King’s Animal Dreaming cards.

She began drawing portraits of different animals and as she would show people she noticed that each person would be drawn to a different animal. The exhibition featured small portraits of different animals combined with spiritual words of guidance.

Returning to Melbourne, Rebecca started to perform live art when Julia Rose invited her up on stage to paint her guitar case.

“For me music is such an inspiration and I’ve always loved music and being around musicians and sharing music and art and this is the perfect way to create in front of people and combine my two favourite things.”

Rebecca began performing anywhere she could, from festivals to tiny shows and pubs. For an audience to see a painting progress and evolve, to give them that experience is one of the things Rebecca loves most about live art.

She has just performed alongside other Gold Coast artists at Oneway Street Party as part of The Surfers Paradise Festival.

“That was really fun. It was the first time doing it with many other artists and we had all these panels lined up and just painted side by side for four hours straight. That was quite an experience.”

Rebecca has also done album art for local musician Felicity Lawless and is working on another one now however cannot give too much away. She is also working on an upcoming exhibition later in the year with an ocean theme and focusing on the illusion of time that we, as humans, have created for ourselves.

Find out more about Rebecca Cunningham and her work at lardart.com.

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