an investigative photo documentary

Exclusive 20-page photo essay from our investigative journalist team in collaboration with award-winning photojournalist Polina Yamshchikov. Location: Brooklyn, United States Copyright Wondereur 2019.

MEET with artist Rachael Wren curated by respected New York-based art critic Jill Conner.

Wren cover
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HAVE YOU EVER NOTICED HOW YOUR BODY, YOUR BREATHING SLOW DOWN IN NATURE?
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That’s very different from being in the city.
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I grew up in New York, but lived in Seattle for three years. Being so close to nature and nature being so big out there, that was different for me.
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When I was first there, there was definitely a sense of disorientation or not terribly connecting with the place. So I set out to go to this park that had a ravine with trees growing up out of it.
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I STOOD IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS PATH WITH TREES COMING UP AND GOING DOWN — JUST THIS TANGLE OF TRUNKS AND BRANCHES.
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It just made sense to be there, amongst the weather and atmosphere and the thick kind of space that you have in Washington State. And I think that feeling is still with me.
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I WASN’T INITIALLY INTERESTED IN PAINTING TREES, BUT MORE THE STRUCTURE OF VERTICALS IN SPACE.
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I studied with painter Jake Berthot in Italy. He had a very particular and beautiful way of talking about painting that I’ll always remember – the pacing and rhythm that you can get in a painting.
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I PAINTED OUTSIDE IN THE SAME PLACE PRACTICALLY EVERY DAY FOR TWO YEARS.
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It was definitely challenging, especially in the winter. But you just bundle up and put on a lot of layers. The rain was more of an issue, although it’s usually more like a light drizzle. So I actually duct-taped this big umbrella to my easel just so I could paint outside in the rain.
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I don’t paint outside anymore.
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When I look back on it, I can’t believe I did that. But it was exactly what I needed to do at the time.
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Now I work more from memory. I do look at things a lot. I never really know what’s going to spark a painting.
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EVEN THE WAY AN EDGE OF A BUILDING LOOKS AGAINST THE SKY COULD SPARK A COLOUR COMBINATION.
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I want to evoke that feeling of being in a place. It’s something that you can’t really touch or pin down.
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I was thinking about painting this atmosphere and tried different things. And somehow, out of that, arose the idea of making each mark have a really distinct edge, but layering them so the interaction between them would feel fuzzy.
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I WANT TO CREATE THAT SENSE OF AIR, OF ALL THESE PARTICLES THAT VIBRATE AND SHIMMER.