My practice is intuitive and often research-led. I might begin with reading about gut health, antibiotic resistance or solastalgia, followed by automatic writing then spoken word recording. This research process then leads to installations comprising drawing, painting and sculpture which generate fantastical characters, scenarios and organic fictions.
I see myself as a multidimensional cartographer, re-mapping psychological and geographical realms. I make work which celebrates the 90% non-human part of us, our microbiome, crucially formed at birth. I use a language of intuitively extracted and abstracted symbols from multiple sources, to bring attention to unseen connections and symbiotic interactions. I intertwine personal histories and cosmologies with ecological and feminist body politics, oscillating between moods both comically dark and ‘deviantly’ joyful.
My process stems from constant inner dialogues concerning how to honour a ‘multispecies alliance’, focusing on limiting my own material impact on an already overburdened planet. With these self-imposed limitations in mind, I carefully repurpose and reuse resources and utilise, where possible, waste products, ethically sourced and non-toxic supplies and agonise over every artistic decision.
Painting is at the core of my practice. I explore our relationship with the wild, whether that be inner or outer environments. I focus on re-wilding but not in a way which separates the human from nature, city from countryside. I make work which envisions a re-animalisation of both us and our environs, blurring the lines between where we stop and the land begins, moving away from the fetishizing of nature.
My work is cyclical, organic, modular and naturally evolving, with a certain openness to outcome, making room for the unexpected to emerge. The idea of ‘The All-Forgiving Greenness’ pervades all, and representations of mycelial information pathways suffuse everything as women morph into flora or fauna, fresh or composting, elemental and fruity.
Rachel Bride Ashton is a Scottish multi-disciplinary artist, feminist and researcher who was born in Dumfries in 1976 and has lived off-grid in a small home-grown forest garden in Aberdeenshire since 2007, where she and her partner earned their living as self-taught painters, while home-educating their two children. She is interested in depth psychology, body politics, the microbiome, sustainable building and gardening, foraging and plant medicine as an integrated holistic lifestyle. Rachel considers this and her research and practice to be entirely interconnected and like Donna Haraway, believes in a “multispecies alliance, across the killing divisions of nature, culture, and technology and of organism, language, and machine.”
She returned to formal education in Dundee in 2019 and is the recipient of the Freelands Painting Prize 2022. She graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design with a first-class honours degree in 2022 and won the Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA) Award, Generator Projects Prize and the James Guthrie Orchar Prize for her degree show installation which featured female empowered birth practices, separation compost toilets and good bacteria. She has also just had a book published also on this subject titled ‘Invisible and Deviant Mothers – Childbirth in Visual Culture’.