Life, and art, is ever-changing. We first encountered Rebecca Lam in 2014, when she’d immersed herself in her art ‘to clear her mind’. Now her work is more a celebration. We caught up with her to find out how her work, and her life, has changed…
AC: Who are you and what do you do?
Rebecca Lam: I’m a wife of an incredibly supportive husband. A stay-home mum to an amazing little boy that makes me smile everyday. And I’m also the girl who loves to create art pieces that depicts the story of my life.
AC: Why do you do what you do?
Rebecca Lam: A few years back – when I was still working and living overseas in Asia I used to love to paint abstract – as a means of stress relief. It was a way to unleash raw emotions I could not express in other ways. I used to call it ‘painting my nightmares’ because every piece I produced was so dark. It was by all means wonderful to look at, but it took a lot out of me to let go and release those emotions on canvas.
These days I’m still painting my life – only it’s a bubbly mix of colours and moments of largely my family and everyday sillies. I do scribble the odd doodles and sketches here and there and paint other non-family members, but mainly I paint how I feel at this point in my life.
I’m very happy and content. I love capturing silly faces, the look of love, and most of all laughter and moments shared.
AC: How do you work?
Rebecca Lam: Around my 19-month-old toddler’s schedule. No seriously. I have a wonderful kid that sleeps magically throughout the night and into noon. So I paint late nights – sometimes well into 5-6am in the mornings. I paint when he naps in the afternoons or when he goes to childcare. I survive on very little sleep – not because I’m a mother, but because I’m an artist who prefers art to sleep.
AC: What’s your background?
Rebecca Lam: My mother is Thai and my father is from Hong Kong but I was raised in Australia my entire life.
I spent my 20s travelling all over Asia and Europe working in the movie Industry.
I moved back to Brisbane (Australia) in my 30s to be with my high school sweetheart to start a family.
I’ve never really had an “Art Education” except the odd high school art class. But for as long as I remember, I’ve always loved to paint, draw and doodle as a child. Growing up my mother used to take me to the beach, just to paint or draw together on the weekends.
I never regretted not pursing an art degree though. I always believed that one can’t learn to be creative. You can, however, learn to copy and to draw. But why learn to paint perfection, when imperfection creates authticity?
When one paints or draws – whether it’s a portrait of a person or an object – it should reflect on how the artist feels, not just how something or someone is meant to look like.
My goal is to make the audience feel how I feel otherwise, I might as well just take photographs instead.
AC: What’s integral to the work of an artist?
Rebecca Lam: Art does not need to be beautiful but it has to cause an emotion – ANY emotion (happiness, pain, good or bad). Art needs to be felt.
AC: Explain what you do in 100 words
Rebecca Lam: I’m a wife and a mother and I love art.
AC: How has your practice change over time?
Rebecca Lam: I use to paint my fears, my heartbreaks, my depression my nightmares – and now I paint my dreams and reality.
AC: What art do you most identify with?
Rebecca Lam: Although I don’t want to be typecast – I must say at present I’m very much into making pop art.
AC: What’s your strongest memory of your childhood?
Rebecca Lam: I remember when I was 5 or 7, I stole my older brother’s colouring kit. It wasn’t just any colouring kit. Back then it was the most elaborate colouring kit a kid could have. It had felt tips, colouring pencils, paint, crayon, the whole caboodle. It was amazing – and Goddammit he found out within 24hrs and I never saw it again.
AC: What’s your scariest experience?
Rebecca Lam: My first night being a mom.
I remember staring at my baby laying next to me through the little see-through bassinet at the hospital after the caesarean.The nurse kept telling me the drugs will kick in and I’ll be in a coma-like deep sleep – but I was too psyched to sleep for at least (no kidding) the first 48-72hrs.
That night Dominic (my son), choked on his own vomit in his sleep. He turned purple within seconds. So I jumped out of the bed like a ninja (just after surgery) and frantically kicked my husband in the face after he failed to hear my screams, while holding onto my newborn. The man was so tired he passed out on the hospital couch after “we” gave birth. LOL.
AC: What’s your favourite art work?
Rebecca Lam: This will sound super corny, but at this very moment it has to be the mother’s day card Dominic (my 19 month old son) recently drew me. It was his first drawing. I was so happy when he gave it to me, I framed it. It’s now (proudly) hanging on my wall at home.
AC: Why art?
Rebecca Lam: To be honest? I don’t know. Maybe I’ve never been great at expressing my feelings – with words. I can have conversations with people for hours on end sharing my life experiences.
Yet I am just terrible at expressing my feelings. But with art, it just happens. No words required.
AC: What is an artistic outlook on life?
Rebecca Lam: Do not fear imperfections.
My husband has always said that with me it’s like “Murphy’s law” whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. Nothing ever goes as planned.
Having said that, it creates the most memorable moments. I believe everything happens for a reason. Take our wedding day for example. It had to be the worst weather of the year. It had the craziest rain and strongest wind. I was almost blown away, struggling to walk down the little carpet down the aisle.
But hey, it was the best thing that happened for someone with terrible wedding jitters like I do.
I remember the day before at rehearsal, the weather was beautiful and sunny, but deep down inside I was petrified, nervous and sick to my stomach. Walking down an imaginary aisle in front of just four other people – I wanted to run. So the strong wind, the crazy rain and trying to stay upright in a puffy dress was the best distraction ever, to a very nervous bride.
So again – do not fear imperfections. That’s where the magic happens.
AC: What do you dislike about the art world?
Rebecca Lam: A lot of art critics still believe that the “Realism” art movement is the only true form of art. Where Graffiti artist such as Banksy, have only been slowly gaining recognition from the art world in recent years. I have mix feelings about “Realistic” art.
I love that 160 odd years ago we didn’t have the camera, but we had amazing painters who captured how the world looked back then.
But nowadays we have cameras – why do we still try to paint/draw like a photograph? I see a lot of pieces where I think – oh that looks so real – but then what? I feel that times have changed – so should art.
AC: What do you dislike about your work?
Rebecca Lam: I’m the world’s worst self-portrait painter. I can not paint myself.
I’ve hated taking proper photos even as a child for school, ID photos, any photos really.
Usually I have to be distracted from the camera. So painting myself, I am forced to face myself even more so. I shall try harder to paint more of myself.
AC: What do you like about your work?
Rebecca Lam: It’s the story of my life but in code – either you can understand it or you can’t.
AC: What makes you angry?
Rebecca Lam: Rude people. Not people who swear in general, but people who have nothing but negativity and criticisms. My grandmother used to say “if you have nothing nice to say – shut the fuck up”. Well maybe she didn’t use the F word… but yeah, something like that.
AC: What superpower would you have and why?
Rebecca Lam: I wish I could read minds. Because there’s nothing I hate more than people who lie. I think not knowing what’s lurking behind one’s thought is a scary. Then again, mind control would come in handy too.
AC: Name something you love, and why.
Rebecca Lam: Dominic. I love my kid. I don’t know why. It was love at first sight. I cried the moment I saw him. I went from laughing and joking with my husband to all the the sudden crazy tears when I met him. I loved him when he looked like a little raisin at birth. I love him even though he makes me so mad sometimes. But I don’t remember life before this little one, and I can’t imagine life without this little one – if that’s not love – then what is?
AC: Name something you don’t love, and why.
Rebecca Lam: Spontaneous clutter. Organised clutter is fine – but spontaneous clutter is not. Don’t ask. Just ask my husband. He’s the king of Spontaneous Clutter. But I must clarify I love the man to bits.
AC: What is your dream project?
Rebecca Lam: I always wanted to do those mother and child collaboration pieces. I’m waiting for the day Dominic can draw stick figures on my paintings or vice versa – I can draw stick figures on his.
AC: Name three artists you’d like to be compared to?
Rebecca Lam: Roy Lichtenstein, Frida Kahlo, James Gill
AC: What’s your favourite or most inspirational place (in Devon)?
Rebecca Lam: I’ve never had the chance to go to Devon but I would love to go climbing at Haytor.
AC: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Rebecca Lam: Don’t compare yourself to other people – as long as you are happy – fuck what others think.
AC: Professionally, what’s your goal?
Rebecca Lam: I just want to keep making art.
AC: We hope you can keep on making art too! Thanks for your time Rebecca!
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