adelaide damoah,  African artist

Interview with Rebecca Fontaine-Wolf. The Next Big Thing

I first came across Rebecca Fontaine-Wolf’s work in 2009 when we took part in a group show at the Opera Gallery in Budapest called “British Art in the Twenty-First Century.” There were several other artists involved in the exhibition, but for me, the work that stood out the most was Rebecca’s work and I have been following her progress ever since, right up until her most recent success which was her inclusion in a reality TV show about art called “Show me the Monet.” Rebecca’s work entitled “June,” a self portrait got all the way through to the end, which meant inclusion in a big group show in Central London at the Royal College of Art.

Adelaide Damoah (AD): Rebecca, how long have you been a professional artist?

Rebecca Fontaine-Wolf (RFW): I have been selling work since my degree show which was in 2004. I worked in a gallery for a year and then after that, I really started doing it professionally and full time as well.

AD: Excellent. So you are completely full time, you are not doing anything else to back up your income.

RFW: Not at the moment no.

AD: What are your secrets to success?

RFW: Well, if you want to call it that. I would say I just threw myself in at the deep end I think. Because I worked at this gallery for a year and I was just basically working on a till and it made me really really miserable. I had my studio, but I didn’t really have the time or energy after work to go to the studio and somebody told me about doing promotional work, which is sort of like giving out leaflets and samples and doing bits and bobs and you can do that as and when you please, you know, when you need it and it pays quite well and I just thought well I am going to try it. I’m going to do it. I’m gonna stop working and do these odd jobs here and there so that I can just really concentrate on my work and do it and I think that was it, just saying yes, I am committing to it. I want this, so I’m just gonna do it, give it a go.

AD: Was there anything else in addition to that? It’s one thing making the decision that your going to go ahead and make a commitment to doing art full time, but were there any other specific things that you did that you feel kind of catapulted you to the point where you started to actually sell work and attract dealers?

RFW: Just getting myself out there really. I think just doing art fairs, just being online, seeing what opportunities are out there, exhibiting stuff in pubs and just sort of bit by bit starting to show work and get it out there. I think that’s all it was really and then from each thing something else comes. Somebody else has seen your work or other little bits just sort of come together. So I think that would be really just it. Just trying to get your work out there and it’s a bit difficult because there is no sort of set path as an artist or as a painter, sort of this is how you move up the ladder and move up the scales, so I think everybody has to figure it out for themselves and that is what the hard thing is. My mother is an artist which sort of helps as well but she works a lot more on commission, she’s a portrait painter primarily, so although she is an artist, her path is quite different than my path. So although I could get support and some advice from her, I still had to figure it out for myself.

AD: That’s interesting because, I mean, there are so many artists that… Well, not many artists have the advantage of having a mother who is an artist as well but, there are so many artists who are doing exactly the things that you have described and they’re failing miserably. So what do you think it is about you that sets you apart from the other artists out there who are failing? I mean, I know artists that have been doing this for years and years and years and they haven’t got as far as you’ve got.

RFW: Really?

AD: Yea

RFW: I don’t really see it that way myself. I suppose you’re more critical of yourself, but I keep thinking, my God, I should be much further by now and you know. It’s interesting to hear that. I really don’t know. I think a certain amount of luck always plays it’s part doesn’t it, in whatever you do so, I’d say that would be it really.

AD: Yea. Well they do say that luck is where preparation meets opportunity and you seem to be constantly prepared, so maybe that has something to do with it.

RFW: I try to be…

Njeri. 2011. Oil and acrylic on natural canvas (c) Rebecca Fontaine-Wolf

AD: So what would you say your main objectives are for sort of the next twelve months going forward? What are your goals?

RFW: Some of the artists from the “Show me the Monet” exhibition have decided to put on another exhibit with our work because it wasn’t open to the public, so we’re doing that from the middle of August. But other than that I think it will be just working on my actual paintings and where that’s going. I’ve got a couple of ideas of the direction I want it to go into, but I think I need to really crystallise that and work on it because sometimes I feel that my work could be that much better and you know, that much more powerful and really that’s where I want it to be. I want to be feeling completely happy with my work which I don’t know if that’s ever really possible to be 100 per cent happy and think yes, this is it. But, that’s what I’m aiming for anyway.

AD: Yea, as artists, we are always struggling with that. I can testify to that. But, you mentioned “Show me the Monet” again. Tell me a bit more about how that actually came about.

RFW: Well it was a competition to get your work seen by some art critics. A competition to get onto the BBC. A reality show where you get to present your work to the art critics who would then decide whether you went on to show in the final exhibition which was going to be at the Henry Moore Gallery at the RCA and was going to be attended by industry professionals and sort of other critics and gallery owners and things like that. I was quite reluctant to take part in it or to even apply for it because of the fact that it is a reality TV show and I wanted it to be more about my work and not about me. I know the format of reality TV and I know that it can be quite cruel so, it’s a massive risk you know, if they don’t like what you do, you could be humiliated in front of millions of people essentially. My mum kind of said, you know, why don’t you do it and my boyfriend did as well and in the end I thought, well I might as well try, I probably won’t get in anyway and, but then I did. Then I sort of decided, well I might as well go for it, you know and it worked out really well so. It was definitely one of the hardest things I’ve had to do, but it was really good yes.

AD: Definitely worthwhile because your prices went up double after that.

RFW: Yes.

July. 201. Oil, acrylic and resin on natural canvas (c) Rebecca Fontaine-Wolf

AD: So any artists out there who get the opportunity to go on reality TV, would you advise it? Take the risk?

RFW: I’d say yes. I think the thing is, you’ve always got to be, if you really believe in what you do, you’ve got to be willing to take that risk don’t you. So I think yes would be the answer.

AD: Good, so do I. So you mentioned that you have got your show with the “Show me the Monet” people coming up, are there any other shows where people can come and see your work?

RFW: I haven’t actually got anything lined up at the moment, but things will come in. I’m doing the “Untitled Art Fair” next year in June. So that’s quite far in the future but yea, I’ll be there. With my mum as well. She is going to be exhibiting, so we will be doing that together which will be quite nice.

AD: Very sweet. OK, so what about long term goals? Where do you see yourself in five years?

RFW: I don’t know if I would dare to say where I’d see myself. I can say where I hope to see myself and really it’s about having a permanent gallery space and being represented by one gallery exclusively and yes, just having that. Having solo shows with them and group shows with them. Not just in terms of status, but also, sometimes it gets really complicated when you’ve got work in different places and your working with different people, you have to be very careful not to piss anyone off or not to sort of overlap or anything like that and it does get quite complicated. It would also be nice to have somebody else who deals with all the business side of things and to be in a place where I can just focus purely on painting, purely on work and have somebody else do all the other stuff. That’s ideally where I would want to be in five years time.

Ipek. 2010. Oil and acrylic on natural canvas (c) Rebecca Fontaine-Wolf

AD: And your ultimate dream for success?

RFW: Ultimate dream would be I think what every artist wants which is to be able to create something lasting, something that has a lasting impact on people that will be remembered for years to come past your lifetime and will sort of play a big part in art history. I think that’s the ultimate goal that I think most of us have really, deep down.

Reflection.2011. Oil, acrylic and resin on synthetic fabric. (c) Rebecca Fontaine-Wolf

AD: Yea. OK. So, where can people see your work online?

RFW: You can see it on my website which is I have also got a facebook page which is the same name, just Rebecca Fontaine-Wolf art and on a few different art websites, but if you type my name, then you will find me on google.

Watch the full interview below.

View some more of Rebecca’s work on her website.
Click like on her Facebook page to receive regular updates.

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