Rebecca Brodskis Talks About Her Paintings, Life, Motivations & More

by Rubén Palma
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Rebecca Brodskis (b. 1988 in France) lives and works in Paris. She spent most of her childhood travelling and living between France and Morocco. Brodskis studied painting at the Ateliers des Beaux Arts de la Ville de Paris and at Central St. Martins in London, graduating in 2010. In 2015, she also completed a Master’s degree in Sociology, focusing her research on the themes of vulnerabilities and social crisis. Exploring the borders of the sensible world, Brodskis’ work evolves between conscious and unconscious spaces, leading to a reflection on existence, the self and the otherness. A prominent idea throughout Brodski’s work is that of being in an in-between: intermediate space at the cross-roads of empirical reality and imagination, order and disorder, materialism and spirituality, determinism and freedom.

Text courtesy of Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery.

Hi Rebecca. Thank you for sitting down with me. First question. How does a regular day look like for you in Marseille ?

Waking up at 7am taking the kids to school, having a coffee outside and then going to my studio and paint paint paint, until it’s time to pick up the kids from school!

So growing up, you traveled between France and Morocco. I read somewhere that you were constantly moving and skipping school. Why was that? Can you talk to me a little bit about your childhood years?

I grew up traveling a lot and yes, skipping school a lot ! My father didn’t like the educational system in France and so I was often not going to school for months in row… We would spend a lot of time at my grandmothers house in Morocco. She was a painter herself and her house was a sort of big art studio. I would love it there and spent a lot of time painting. I was also following a home school program for a while. It was working well as I was a very concentrated little girl and I was reading a lot. We moved to Paris when I started high school.

At some point during your painting studies, you move to London to go to Central St. Martins. What made you continue your studies abroad?

Well yes, I was so used to moving. I got tired of being in Paris after spending a few years there. I got accepted in Central St Martin’s and so I moved to London when I was 18 years old. 

Ok so before we start talking about your paintings, and while were on the traveling and living abroad topic, we might as well get them out of the way. You still travel a lot and do a lot of residencies. Talk to me a little bit about that lifestyle please. Everyday life, experiences, pro’s and cons… stuff like that. 

I love travelling, well not really traveling but spending time in different countries and cities. It’s not really traveling because it’s always for a project or really to spend a year or more in that place. In the past year we have been to Senegal and Singapore. Now off to Morocco for a bit more then two months. I could carry on like that forever, but my five years old son is not really into it anymore, so it seems like we will be spending more and more time in Marseille. 

Your work is also being exhibited all over the world. Both solo and groups. I gotta ask. Do you ever get nervous or do you have any kind of rituals before exhibitions?

Haha no I don’t have any rituals and I am not nervous before an opening. I am more nervous before a transport and not knowing if the paintings will be dry or not!

Having traveled all over the world. What is the worst and best place you have visited?

There are so many places I love and dislike! It’s hard for me to say that I love one above all, and or one I really hate.. You can’t compare Dakar and New York, and I love these two cities for completely different reasons! I don’t think there s a place I really hate.. To be honest I realize you can sort of get used to any kind of place.. Then of course for me a lot has to do about the people, so if the people are not friendly, this would make me dislike a place.

Do you have a favorite memory? and where do you think your wanderlust comes from?

That’s a very hard questions I have hundreds or thousands of amazing memories and I really can’t grade them.. My wanderlust definitely comes from my father. He never ever stops moving. He’s always on the road, the stereotypical image of the wondering jew. In the end, the Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Ok let’s talk about your art now.. How old were you when you started painting? And at what age did you begin taking it seriously?

I started painting at a very very young age.. at three years old I was already painting with oils. I was always painting and I really have been spending a lot of time in art studios since my early twenties. But i think I only took it seriously once my son was born and I realized that I had to find a way to make money and that was the only thing I knew how to do!

How has seing the world influenced the way you create and view art?

Being confronted by so many different cultures and ways of living has had a great impact on me and therefore on my creations. I see my paintings as a sort of virtual diary. I have two diaries. One I have been writing in everyday since I was 8 years old..
( yes a bit freaky but I can literally know what I have been doing in my life, everyday since that..) and my paintings, which is a sort of virtual diary of all the people surrounding me or inspiring me. 

Women are the protagonists of your paintings. Who are they and what do they represent?

I do paint mainly woman, but I also paint men. They are so feminin though, that most of the time people think they are woman. All the people I paint are either people I know, people I saw on my daily travels, film directors, poets, writers I love and that inspires me, or just simply people I make up. They are simply themselves.. Human beings, with all their inner sides, memories, traumas, dreams… 

What is it about women that makes you want to document them and their faces, more than anything else?

It’s not really about woman but more about the feminin aspect maybe. I guess it’s easier to speak about what you experience… I don’t know much about what being a man feels like. I can try to imagine it, but it would be hard for me to really speak about it… 

While we’re on the topic.Between conscious and unconscious spaces, leading to a reflection on existence, the self and the otherness“. Why is it important for you to document those topics through your paintings?

Well for the simple reason that there isn’t a day that passes where i am not confronted by these questions… existential questions… what is consciousness? The limits of consciousness? Who am I? Who are they? What are we doing here? The purpose of existence. My paintings are just a reflection of my thoughts. As I mention before a sort of visual diary. I can’t avoid my obsessions!

Your paintings always include atleast one warm color. Is that deliberate? And can you talk about your approach to color?

My color approach is completely spontaneous and unpredictable. I never really know. It just evolves layer after layer, and often the original colors completely disappears…

What motivates and inspires you?

Painting is my therapy, I guess that’s my very first motivation. It allows me to reflect and take time for introspection. When I don’t paint for a while I really feel like something is breaking inside of me. Absolutely everything can be inspiring. Really the world is so inspirational. You just need to open your eyes… But truly open your eyes !

Who’s your favorite artist(s) and why?

Again I don’t have one favorite artist… I love so many of them and for different reasons. I would say at the top of my list would be many of the artists of the new objectivity, like Otto Dix and Christian Schad. And then also the school of Vienna secession, Klimt and Schiele. Then I Am also an eternal admire of Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. I am also very fund of Balthus, Dumas … really the list is endless to be honest !

What’s your favorite movie(s) and why?

Haha again it’s so hard for me to put one thing on top of all the others. I love so many things and it also just changes according to my mood. I really can’t answer that question.

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