Rebecca Harper, ‘Spellbind Reflecting’

Rebecca Harper grew up next to the River Thames. During lockdown caused by Covid-19, the river became a vital source of reflection and nostalgia. Its fluid and ever-changing presence was an inspiration to the artist, who was able to use it to regain a sense of place and belonging during such a turbulent time. Harper states, ‘uncertainty can of course throw us into inhabiting the moment, something horrific can draw us into the smaller pleasures that we neglect when looking at the bigger picture’.

Harper embarked on a series of works inspired by not only the river, but by moments of change and upheaval, and the self-imposed rituals that mark these points. Harper began to contemplate the passing through of beginnings and endings, through ceremony and consolation. From the revitalising and rejuvenating health effects of cold water, to its use in religious and cultural practices and ceremonies, immersion in water has been celebrated and revered throughout human history. Water itself is considered sacred by many peoples; a symbolic purifier, connected to birth and new beginnings.

Spellbind Reflecting expands on these associations through the physical act of the application of paint. Harper’s practice of working in translucent layers of thinly applied paint gives this watery scene further layers of fluidity. A richly detailed scene, the composition has an expressionistic and dreamlike colour palette. Shards of sunlight descend into the frame as droplets of red and pink, landing on the river water, which shifts easily between mossy greens and browns to incandescent pinks and yellows. The colours of both the skin and the water’s surface ripple and effervesce, as the artist notes, ‘humans and water, alike, have a natural action, eddies, activities’.

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