Rebecca Hastings‘ art is a family affair. The Australian artist uses herself and her children as the focal subjects in her highly realist oil paintings – yet noticeably absent from these portraits is the sentimentality one would expect an artist-mother to insert into her depictions of family life. Instead, Hastings subverts these idealized expectations to reveal the more complex realities of child rearing that is rarely touched upon in glossy advertisements or family portraits.
In her artist statement, Hastings explains how social norms that create a romantic notion of what being a mother means have ultimately inspired her work. “[My work] explores the relationship between mother and child; the complex and contradictory experiences that swing wildly from affection to aggression, encompassing frustration, rage, tenderness, love and fear… it was very much a reflection of my own frustrations in the day-to-day reality of raising children and the pressure I feel from society in this role.”
Hastings’ paintings, which feature her children in various stages of dress up, are based on at-home photo shoots, some of which appear to have gone a little awry. The children pose in handmade costumes and oversized clothing, sometimes slightly off-pose, pulling faces or concealed by their garments. While at times the images appear playful – such as the family dog being corralled into wearing frilly underwear – others give off a surreal, unsettling vibe that suggest the darker emotions that lurk beneath the surface.
As her children have developed, so has Hastings’ experiences as a mother and as a result, her art. Her 2015 series Imaginary Landscapes finds herself looking to the future as she shares her concerns for her children’s well-being in the face of climate change. The artist portrays her children through the lens of a parent who is as much filled with anxiety and uncertainty as she is with love and instinctual protectiveness.
Hastings will be exhibiting in a group show titled Fuse, on view at Flinders Lane Gallery from August 9-27. The artist has another exhibition titled We went for a walk in the Uncanny Valley planned for October 2016, also at Flinders Lane Gallery. One may also view her work on her website.