Australian Contemporary Art

Rachel Carmichael

Rachel Carmichael_l

Born in the United Kingdom 1955, Carmichael has lived in Australia since 1960. She began her career as a teacher in special education after graduating with an Honours degree from Sydney University, and several post-graduate qualifications from Teachers College, Nepean Campus and the University of NSW. In the late 1980’s, she taught young intellectually disabled children, and later worked as an interpreter/ tutor for hearing impaired HSC and TAFE art students.

After leaving teaching in 1988, Rachel began to develop her own painting skills. She is a self-taught artist, working in acrylic paint and mixed media on board. A number of unusual decorative surfaces are employed such as gold leaf, foil, glitter, sand and multiple layers of matt, satin and high gloss varnishes.

The work is figurative and slightly stylized. Each work is a small vignette or tableaux. The paintings are small narratives engaging the viewer and prompting a response. Since 1990 Rachel has been fortunate enough to paint full time. She paints her home in Coledale, an old coal miner’s village, between the rainforest escarpment and the sea. These surroundings have obviously proved to be an inspiration for settings of her paintings.

The Work
Rachel is a figurative artist whose work consists of small tableaux whereby anthropomorphized birds, animals, flowers, suns and moons interact with children, girls or women. The characters may be touched by melancholy, a sense of solitude, longing, envy or bad temper-the interpretation can be wide-ranging and varies according to the sensibilities of the viewer.

Painting Techniques
Rachel’s work is defined by its use of flat decorative surfaces and stylized figures. Rachel uses a number of mixed media techniques involving the use of different reflective surfaces such as glazes, matte and satin acrylics, iridescent, metallic and pearl over-washes. Gold and colored foil and collage materials are also employed. Rachel, most recently, has been painting on silk on board, but has also used tissue paper on board as a base and occasionally plaster on wood. This technique often gives a textured finish to the paintings.

Framing
Frames are ‘rough gilded’- a technique developed by the artist, involving the use of gilding techniques in a non-traditional or rough manner. Frames are ‘aged’ using an antiquing patina with a final coat of shellac. The frames provide a soft-reflected light which complements the use of gold or iridescent colors within the painting itself.

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