Rebekah Farr


I love landscapes, but to be honest, I always wonder where the people have gone.


A landscape by itself always seems a little... deserted. Expression, emotion, and extremes of existence are fascinating to me, and faces are a vital reflection of those themes. I love the way a facial expression can change with a brush stroke and how the brush can bring emotion to a face by painting something completely unexpected.


My education was not a bright line followed from the start. I’ve wandered around doing things I thought might suit me. A tertiary course in art and design, a fashion design degree, a post-grad diploma in animation and interactive media.  Across those various creative fields, people (and in particular faces) have been the focus of my work.


I started to teach myself to paint in my late 30’s which was (and still is) at times frustrating, but also leaves me free to do it my own way. My work has been influenced by exploring diverse styles, techniques and processes: paintings by Otto Dix and Toulouse Lautrec, interviews with Francis Bacon, the abstract cold-wax art of Rebecca Crowell, Susan Rothenberg’s cross-media creations, Arthur Rackham’s illustrations, fashion designers like Barbara Gongini or Ann Demeulemeester and many others.


Without sensationalising, I like to paint struggle. Here you get the most condensed expression and emotion in people. It’s hard for us to imagine extreme difficulty in our comfortable lives, which is why the original inspiration for Departures was the Wahine disaster. I’d been caught by images of the massive sea, the freezing conditions and traumatised survivors.


But as I painted, more modern images held sway: the desperate and brave faces of refugees, fleeing from their only homes by boat. The focus of each artwork is the strength of the people, following a story of leaving, a harrowing voyage and the unknown outcome of arrival.


Amongst the refugees, I have placed our monarch as a symbol of the attitudes that refugees find when they arrive in the western world. Her Hermès headscarves speak of privilege, wealth and respectability, in stark contrast to the Muslim headscarf so often associated with terrorism.


Departures explores those desperate journeys, and asks us to consider how we view those fellow humans who face the terrible wrath of the sea in the hope of reaching a better life.