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Image - Rebecca Ainscough

Image – Rebecca Ainscough

Rhythm, Ritual, Rites of Passage

‘Rhythm, Ritual, Rites of Passage.’ HOT’s Zelly Restorick visited this stimulating and intriguing exhibition within the new Crypt Gallery at St Mary in the Castle, meeting the artist in residence, Rebecca Ainscough.

“Like a ray of sunshine come to life in human form” is how Rebecca was described to me by St Mary’s in the Castle all-round worker bee, Thom Kofoed, who adores St Mary’s as a building and works his socks off – as do all the staff – keeping The Good Ship St Mary afloat.

“I wanted the Crypt to be a more dynamic space for artists. It was a space for hire, mostly empty, I met Rebecca (by pure chance, one of those beautiful synchronicities) and thought ‘you should be the one’,” – meaning ‘the one’ to be the Crypt’s first artist in residence.

Every single mark means something

“The thing about Rebecca’s paintings is that every single mark means something”, added Thom. This is the first topic of exploration for Rebecca and me.

Rebecca Ainscough painting

Rebecca Ainscough: ‘Sounds Jaipur Rajasthan’

“During my travels, I’ve become really interested in not only what I see but the sounds I hear, the different languages and ordinary everyday sounds as well as ceremonial music,” said Rebecca. “I’ve carried a sketch book for the last 25 years and in that time, I’ve devised a way of making marks through drawing and painting that correspond with what I hear – language, the spoken word, live performance, music and sounds relating to different belief systems, in churches, mosques and temples, the sounds used for worship and rituals. So every mark represents a unique sound.”

Some of the paintings are vibrantly coloured in Rebecca’s more recent work inspired by West Africa.

“My use and choice of colour are a response to the specific location, at a specific moment in time. They relate to the the environment visually but also to the atmosphere of the place, the sounds, associations and memories.”

Your paintings are like a visual language, I say – and Rebecca seems pleased that I have understood the essence of what she wants to convey.

Seeing each person speaking in that shape and colour

Rebecca Ainscough

Rebecca Ainscough: Detail from ‘Harall’ Wolof. The Gambia

“Living in India – all of the senses are bombarded. The streets are a cacophony of sound – this mixed media drawing represents a particular market place, crowds of people talking; the marks represent the tonalities of their voices. The heavier charcoal marks represent some of the male voices I could hear, lighter tones for other voices, women and children. Different shapes, weight of marks and colours for higher pitched voices, conveying the spectrum  between bass and treble. When I look at the paintings from that time, I can see each person speaking in that shape and colour”.

Multiples of layers

The paintings are multi-layered. They are like photographs capturing moments in time, like a film, a flowing moment-by-moment audio-visual representation of Rebecca’s travelling audioscape.

“Threaded throughout the exhibition calligraphic marks appear representing the soundscape…becoming more painterly…resembling visual palimpsests. I begin with a first layer of calligraphic marks, paint over them, sometimes obliterating all of the marks, then build more layers of text and colour, multiples of layers exist beneath the surface.”

A bit of a metaphor for us humans, I say. Our multiple layers. “And of how we become who we are through our past experiences,” adds Rebecca. “We’re not only non-transparent.” Like with the media, like with much of our human world: lots going on beneath the surface layer.

“I’ve kept a detailed written diary since I was eight years old, each page another layer of my experience. The paintings may be read as representations of our layers of experience and how we evolve. In a way these paintings are a visual diary.”

Rebecca Ainscough Thro' the window.

Rebecca Ainscough: Mixed media Painting “Listening. Kota, The Gambia’

Through a window

With some of the paintings, I felt like I was looking through a window and seeing glimpses behind the scenes of what had happened before. A sense of looking at layers of conversations, memories and associations.

“These works do show glimpses of other associations, they reveal conversations. Rather like when we meet a person, in initial conversations, how much do we say, how much do we reveal about ourselves? We always have hidden layers – and then, gradually as we become more secure in our relationships, we reveal more.

“In Sanaa, Yemen, before the war – such a beautiful place – I listened to the call to prayer at dawn and dusk; again more recently, this year in West Africa, I heard the sounds fluctuating through the air. The rectangular shapes in this series are locators, capturing and containing these experiences.

“As I listen, I feel like I am tuning into something truly profound. The paintings are a form of communication, of deep conscious listening, hearing, seeing and recognising our similarities rather than our differences. Yes, there are individual and cultural differences, but whether temple sounds, calls to worship or drumming, the mesmeric rhythms are within everything.”

Vibrant colours. Rebecca Ainscough

Vibrant colours. Rebecca Ainscough

Community and inter-generational cohesion

Travelling was part of Rebecca’s job as a lecturer:  she found it inspirational.  Teaching in Italy, India, Yemen, Africa…she enjoyed living in a place to discover what it was really like.

Adapting to the different places was sometimes challenging, but she chooses to remember the good bits. Fascinated by the sense of community and inter-generational cohesion in other cultures she feels concerned about the ‘loneliness epidemic’ in our society amongst all age ranges. She offers creative workshops to bring people together, helping  them to feel less isolated.

“As a teacher/lecturer (in Fine Art, Art Education, Visual Culture) good communication, deep listening are vital aspects – and I feel they’re becoming lost arts. People hear but don’t really listen, just as they look but don’t really see. Everything goes at such a fast pace. This exhibition is about having an awareness of that.”

Rebecca Ainscough Poster

Rebecca Ainscough Poster

Love at first sight

A Hastings Old Town resident for two and a half years, Rebecca “likes the vibe of the place. I fell in love with it – it just felt so right.”

As artist in residence, Rebecca works in her Crypt Gallery studio every weekday except Wednesday and sometimes at the weekend. From there, she hears a whole spectrum of sounds coming from within the building, with which she responds with her mixed media  materials.

Visual conversations

“In my mixed media works I utilise materials that repel each other, acrylic and oils… it’s like a conversation, a dialogue within the composition. You can see this in some of the works, where the textures have resisted each other.

“It’s a great privilege to be in this space each day. Such an amazing building – it was a church and this is the crypt… think of all the memories it holds. And such a range of sounds from all the different functions held here – and the silence as well.”

Rebecca will be exhibiting the creations that have evolved out of her experience towards the end of her stay (16 August). The exhibition is open every day from 10am till 5pm. Enter up the ramp at St Mary in the Castle and turn left.

Meet The Crypt Gallery’s first artist in residence: Rebecca Ainscough

Auditorium Talk

Join artist Rebecca Ainscough, MA, as she discusses her travels to India, Africa and Italy, her exhibition, ‘Rhythm, Ritual, Rites of Passage’, what inspired it and how she translated that inspiration into visual art. All welcome.

Saturday 13 July at 2pm.

Tickets £8 :


Two Crypt Gallery talks on Monday 24 June and Thursday 25 July, when Rebecca Ainscough will guide you around her exhibition. Free entry. All welcome.

Rebecca J Ainscough, MA

Fine Artist / Educator




St Mary in the Castle Charitable Trust

7 Pelham Crescent
Hastings TN34 3AF
01424 715 880

St Mary in the Castle

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Posted 17:36 Sunday, Jun 16, 2019 In: Arts News

Also in: Arts News

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