Rachel Simpson

Art & Philosophy BA (Hons)

Becoming un-becoming; an exploration of the merging of body and earth.


Portrait of Rachel Simpson

Thin place made thick - a meeting-place - the in-between

In burial, the body returns to the earth from which it came; dust unto dust. That which bears, holds and carries us is also that which buries us; that from which we emerge is that within which we are assimilated.

Simpson’s practice is an exploration into this ephemerality of being and the urge to draw ever closer to – to sink into, to bury into, to hold - the earth. This yearning to be held and embraced by the earth emanates from a personal desire to feel closer to the earth within which her late father is buried, dismantling the stark separation of death from life.
Through looking at the human body within liminal landscapes, wherein water cedes to land and land cedes to water, Simpson explores this blurring of physical boundaries, challenging oppositions of body and earth, and life and death. Instead, comfort is found in the collapse of margins and in surrendering to softened and dissipated borders.
Her main body of work consists primarily of ceramics and printmaking. Working with clay, a primitive, tactile substance, allows an increased intimacy with the earth. Simpson’s lithography prints, consisting of fluid marks created from her own body, are printed onto fabric and hung within a wooden structure. Intuitively responding to the weight and flow of these materials, she allows for collapse within physical form, aiming to create a sense of becoming un-becoming.

Overview Of Space

Image of room with large frame installation consisting of frames with fabric prints and tables with ceramic pots in the foreground and a shelf with ceramic pots on and three lithography prints in the background
Image of room with large frame installation consisting of frames with fabric prints and tables with ceramic pots on left, a shelf with ceramic pots in the middle and three framed prints on the right


Image of large frame installation consisting of a two-fold, three-part frame with fabric prints and five wooden tables with ceramic pots

The vessels were created through allowing collapse of hand-built forms, working with the unpredictable undulations and natural crevices. Subtly echoing human lines and folds, their forms are soft, solidity dissolving. The lithography prints are a fluid-embrace; languid, watery forms on hung fabric. They speak of surrender, letting go, giving in to being held and ceding to sleep. Created from the artist’s body pressed against lithography plates, the marks are both figural and watery; edges bleeding and coming undone.

Various Views Of 'Collapse'

'To Hold'

Image of long wooden shelf on which sits 10 different coloured glazed ceramic bowls and pots

Vessels: formed for the transference, exchange, emptying and refilling of matter. Made to hold, but also to be held.

Close-up of stoneware pot with transparent blue glaze on shelf with other pots out of focus in background

The glazing process of these vessels reflects this urge to hold, carry and contain. Subtle outlines of hands and fingers leave traces of human touch; gentle, yet permanent, imprints of a momentary gesture. The artist’s body thus both present and absent in this body of work.

The Vessels Of 'To Hold'

Throwing ceramic vessels requires an intimate tension, a closeness to the clay yet also an awareness of its susceptibility to collapse. This relationship between clay and body is thus one of push and pull, ebb and flow, strength and fragility.

'Refuge', 'Unfurled', and 'The Interlude'

Picture of three lithography prints featuring people lying in salt-marshes

This triptych of photolithography prints features bodies embedded in Tentsmuir’s saltwater marshes. Due to the tidal nature of the saltwater marsh, boundaries between land and water become blurred and margins muted, softened. The body sinks into this ever-changing environment, seeking comfort in the ebbs and flows. An abject, in-between existence in a liminal landscape.

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