Meet Rachel Cuyler, Senior Art Director and Abstract Painter

Rachel Cuyler is a Senior Art Director at Arnold and a painter in her spare time. We sat down with her to chat about her artistic background, her painting technique, and plans for her work.

What’s your role at Arnold?

RC: I’m a Senior Art Director in the Arnold New York office, working across several accounts including Jack Daniel’s, Hershey’s and CenturyLink.

Did you attend an art school with the intention of becoming an artist?

RC: Not exactly, I attended Marist College and studied to be a designer. So I started my career in advertising in that role before becoming an art director. So, although we think creatively in advertising, it’s still important for me to be actively making stuff in a tactile or physical way.

Has your artwork changed from when you began?

RC: My technique has definitely evolved. Especially since the process is a bit of a science experiment. But living and working in New York obviously means it’s a bit difficult to create in confined areas. Before I had my studio I ruined several apartment floors. When I started working out of a studio in Brooklyn, NY about a year and a half ago, and started creating the work that’s now a part of the “Viscosity” series, the work began to evolve significantly. Not just in scale but also in the depth and detail of the layering, and in a more exploratory and aggressive use of color.

Can you elaborate on “Viscosity”?

RC: So, “Viscosity” is a direct reference to the process I use to mix paint. But it also refers to the way contrasting tensions either contribute to or destroy one’s “sense of self”. The idea being that both the finished work and the process demonstrate that shift in core ideology.

What’s the process you use for your paintings?

RC: I work flat on panel, and everything is acrylic based. I mix paint with different mediums to change the density of the color and fluidity to affect how it will react when poured. The information from each subsequent layer informs how I pour the next one. And then I varnish between every layer, which creates a sense of depth. Once the forms start to come together I draw a black outline over top. Each painting takes a while to finalize – from start to finish, it can be anywhere from 4-6 weeks to up to four months.

Who are your biggest influences when it comes to your art?

RC: When I explain the process of pouring, people often ask me about Jackson Pollock because he’s an obvious reference to parallel in terms of how I physically paint, and also in articulating the introduction of a new way of working based on a sense of organic control. But beyond the evolution process, I think the similarity ends and I don’t consider his work a reference.

Two names I always come back to are Rauschenberg and Dali—which on a surface level make no sense. And you certainly don’t see any Rauschenberg in where the work is currently, but before this point I was working with, and combining, more complex textures and materials.

Dali is a more conceptual reference, as his work wrestles with the deconstruction of our perception of reality. However, rather than manifesting in grotesquely abstracted physical worlds, for me that becomes more amorphous because I’m looking at an abstract break down of the psychology or evolution of “self”.

What inspires you to keep creating art outside of work?

RC: Well, of course, working in advertising, it’s nice to climb out of all of the boxes and restrictions we work within. But primarily for me it’s really about the physicality of process.

Do you have any plans for upcoming shows?

RC: I’m still working on finishing the “Viscosity” series so likely the end of spring or summer. I had a work in progress show at the beginning of last spring, but they take so long to complete that I’m still working to fill out the series. Current work, though, is always posted on my website.

What’s your favorite thing about being an artist?

RC: For me the coolest part is when people understand the work without me explaining it. It’s one thing to create something for yourself or understand the process of how you got there in your head. But it’s a whole other when that’s perceived by an audience—which of course doesn’t always happen, people can take from it what they will, but I always find it fascinating when it does.

———

About Viscosity

The Viscosity series is an exploration of both loss and process. This loss however is not intended to refer to external ownership of any kind. But instead represents a shift in the evolution of core ideologies and the leaving behind of things within ourselves which we do not carry to term.

The physical creation of the work is demonstrative of the artist’s intention—or destruction of being, through creation. The work is developed through a series of poured layers and varnishing which allows the concentration of pigment and the mixing of contrasting viscosities to settle naturally. Each subsequent layer is based on the information created previously. In the final stages, an outline is drawn over top of the paint and varnish defining the cells and exhuming the central form.

The form, color and composition of each piece evolves significantly throughout a 4-12 week process.