About Rachael

Rachael Dickens trained at Goldsmiths College in the late 1980s in Fine Art Textiles. She has made art work on and off since then and is now painting, stitching, making ceramics and found object ensembles in her studio in Kent.

The use of photographic images is common throughout the work,  embedded in paintings,  transferred onto found fabric in the stitched work and sometimes oil paint is applied directly to large format photographs as in the swimming lanes work.

The ceramic work is in stoneware, slab built and hand modelled. Divers, finished in vibrant colours and glossy slick glazes are an expression of the simple joy of outdoor swimming and the intense delight of cold water. The slab-built pieces are reminiscent of the fountains and pool architecture of 1930s lidos.

Rachael swims outdoors all year round

“Winter swimming has a particular effect on the mind and body inducing a meditative state, very calming to the spirit”

Since 2009 summer holidays have been spent visiting lidos all around the UK, wild camping with her VW van, swimming and walking with friend and fellow artist Viv Yankah.

Swimming at Tooting Bec Lido from 2006 -2008 then at Brockwell Park Lido until 2014 .

She now swims most days in the North Sea off the East Kent Coast.

Paintings

When I moved from London to live at the seaside the only thing I really missed was Brockwell Lido and my Lido friends.

When I started to paint I realised that I missed the colour of the water at the lido, the water on the Kent coast is often muddy and I struggled to love it. But the huge sky and ever changing, soft, calming, natural colours soon beguiled me.  Initially the colour pallet was so different and everything so alien that I moved away from two dimensional work temporarily and made work from found objects.

Beachcombing

In 2014 I moved to the Kent Coast, near Herne Bay. I bought a little wooden bungalow with big ideas about refurbishment and started swimming in the sea. I could not get use to it at first, I was unsettled by not being able to see the bottom, it was murky and bumpy and TIDAL! I just wanted to get up in the morning and go for a dip, on some mornings to my dismay the sea had gone away! However with time I grew to love the cycle of the tide, its push and pull and I began to gather up things that it brought back to show me. Stones, shells, sea glass, driftwood, scraps of fabric, plastic, metal and more. Treasures from who knows where! I love its constantly changing edges, the morphing skyline, the light, the colours, the clouds, the geese and gulls shrieking overhead. I feel so small in it yet somehow very connected.

Ceramics

In 2009 I started swimming all year round at Brockwell Lido, a fantastic example of 1930s architecture. Brockwell along with many other outdoor pools across the country, from Gourock in Scotland to The Jubilee pool in Cornwall, inspired my ceramic work. I love the shapes of the fountains, the details in the sweeping steps and the beautiful diving boards.

Swimming Lanes

Every year for eight years, my friend Viv and I went on lido hops across Britain in my camper van. These paintings are a product of those trips. We would go on long walks and visit every Lido, river, lake and waterfall we could find. I imagined long swimming lanes through the wooded landscapes, my perfect swim, then began to create swimming lanes in urban environments, down country lanes, on busy London streets, in parks etc. The small pieces are painted straight on to photographs that I took for this purpose.