words by Emma Conroy
The four storey climb to Rachel Goodyear’s studio through the corridors of Salford’s Islington Mill has the nostalgic familiarity of a high school art department. Encouraged from a young age to pick up pencils and paper by her school teacher parents, and inspired by leafing through illustrated classical mythology books, Rachel tells me she’s always been interested in art.
A key moment for Goodyear was a Louise Bourgeois exhibition at the Tate Liverpool. “It blew my mind,” she smiles, remembering the spark of inspiration and the feeling of connection. A piece of herself, not so much found but uncovered.
As part of the last year of students to attend university without fees – Goodyear did her art foundation at Rochdale’s Hopwood Hall College before going on to Leeds University – she believes this experience and the people she met were part of building her character. Her strong views on the governments’ cuts to the arts and her opinion that “education should be for all” serve to highlight the passion she has for the creative industries. “Places like Walsall Gallery are under threat…the closure would be devastating,” she says. “It’s important that everyone has access to the arts.”
I asked about how links with others can work for artists like her. “I used to be this anxiety ridden, shy person,” she says.“The idea of networking made me shudder…but it can just be chatting to like-minded people.” Rachel herself started simply, getting together with a group of friends to discuss art and get constructive feedback before showing work more widely. This is a more personal kind of network – like the creative community at Islington Mill with its, “on-going friendship and conversation.” It’s helped on a practical level too, with collaborators bringing the technical know how to realise her largest piece yet; a huge installation of three animated panels paired with an instrumental soundtrack, that is part of the ‘Catching Sight’ show.
As we chatted, Rachel took out prints of her art and laid them on the table, discussing how her work has developed over the years. Where previously characters and images floated in infinite white space, more recent pieces use abstract washes and landscapes, mountain ranges and empty rooms to prop up her figures. “The tension between, for example, a bear and a girl,” she explains of her past work, “has moved to the techniques I use.” The precarious relationships are now spelt out by the method, rather than a conflict of characters on the page. She uses triangles or “mountains” and circular “blind spots” which interrupt space to alter the dimensions and add layers of tension. The female figures in her ‘Catching Sight’ exhibition have their eyes covered. Goodyear sees it as “obscuring, not blinding” and compares it to seeing with alternate vision or being able to sense things instinctively.
Goodyear admits to leaving pieces of herself in her art, and her personal response too is almost entirely emotional. When looking back she remembers how she was feeling at the time of creation. “Other people might not see it,” she says, but adds, “it’s really important to me for a viewer to have their own response.”
On asking what advice she’d give to her 18 year old self, she muses, “I’d say not to worry but worrying is fine! It’s healthy.” She thinks for a moment before adding, “Stick at it. Carry on making your art even if it feels like no one’s watching.” However, Rachel laughs at being called a ‘real’ artist, saying the concept is always something that seems out of reach. “You always feel you’ll be outed for being fake!”
Art isn’t the end of Goodyear’s creative endeavours, as the small black moleskin she carries with her shows. A self-proclaimed “obsessive journal keeper”, she confesses that writing her thoughts daily helps her to keep things ordered and unwind. “I solve a lot of things through writing,” she says, recounting her recent trip to New York in which a notebook from years gone by fell from the shelf which coincidentally contained her notes from the last trip she took to the Big Apple. Reading it back she saw how much she’d changed, “I was a completely different person…the way I viewed the world.”
‘Catching Sight’ was at The New Art Gallery, Walsall.