About a year and a half ago, if not more, I came across a mind-blowing Instagram account, Rococo Wonderland (now titled @Rebecca_Mason_Art). I was dazzled by the amazing neon pieces – words that looked radiant in a mesh up of bright lights but that seemed to hide a somewhat darker message. It is probably that fascinating juxtaposition of literally light and metaforically dark that has made Rebecca Mason – no longer hiding under the pseudonym Rococo Wonderland – flourish, from an Insta sensation, into a full-blown artist. Little did I know that I would end up stumbling across this person’s mesmerising work in a painfully hip pop up art gallery in Old Street, Leontia Gallery (more on this place later).
As one would expect, seeing Rebecca Mason’s pieces in the flesh is a completely different feeling from seeing them on a phone screen. They are hipnotic, imposing and sort of impossible to look away from. Because they are, above all, shockingly relatable. Like little fireflies, the spectators are immediately drawn to the bright lights – but alas, the truth lies behind those bright lights. Because ultimately, the at times funny, at times sad, always poignant text behind these neon words is what will lure the spectator into facing their own truth. I found myself cringing when looking at “Word Search” (or Lost, see below), as it really was all too real. But this wasn’t a bad thing – it’s a pretty intense feeling when an artwork that initially had nothing to do with you all of a sudden has everything to do with you.
I went back to Leontia Gallery less than a week after ‘discovering’ it, as I didn’t want to miss the live Q&A session with the very neon wonder herself, Rebecca Mason. Gorgeously tall and fashionable in her Henry Holland dress, Rebecca is an inspiration to say the least. Intelligent, eloquent, funny, friendly and without an ounce of pretentiousness, Rebecca explained her love for neon and the passion for what she does shined through, which is always an inspiring feeling.
Rebecca also kindly agreed to let me harrass her with a few questions via email, as I knew I had to post about this on my blog. I cannot thank her enough for her amazing answers – don’t miss this insight into the neon wonder that is Rebecca Mason.
|“Word Search”, 2015.|
At what point did you realise you were going to make a career out of your passion for neon lights?
the end of 2013 I included a few pieces in a pop up in Shoreditch.
They were very well received and it was then that I realised that if I
really focused I could potentially progress with the artwork, so I then
concentrated on using my Instagram account for the artwork and getting
the word out there. That gained traction pretty quickly and as my
following grew so did the offers of shows. I am one of those people who
never do anything by halves – if I decide to go for it I go for it, so I
worked really hard to do shows, new work, etc. Around May 2014 I
produced my first piece with the more personal sentences and words in
the background. As well as being very well received it was also very
cathartic for me to produce work like that, so I started doing more of
that type of work, carving it out as my own niche; artwork that was
recognisable as Rebecca Mason/Rococo Wonderland. It all grew from that –
getting a stand at The Other Art Fair in October 2014 was a big deal
for me, and a lot of opportunities came from that too.
|“We Were Born Free Yet Everywhere We Are In Chains”, 2015.
relatively new to the art world, how have you handled staying true to
your own ideas whilst also taking into consideration commerciality?
I was able to do it as I had a part-time job which kept a roof over my
head and financed my projects, so I was more free from the commercial
constraints – although I think the work is pretty commercial anyway. However, I admit after going full-time as an artist the dynamic changed
pretty quickly and I worried I may lose my initial purpose and drivers
for doing the art, as I had a huge mortgage to pay. It’s really important
that the pieces, and what I write on the background, stay true to
myself and the message I want to convey, and I think I can actually only
do that when I am a free from the pressure of selling to make a living,
so I am very lucky that I can dip my toe in and out of my former career. I will still work on short term projects now and then – not only
does this remove any financial considerations, it also gives me more
material to cover, as I am more part of “the machine” than I am when
I do full-time art. I’m someone who likes to be on the go all the time
and I have learned that a balance of the art career with occasional
dips into my old office-based life – my degree is in Economics – is a
perfect option for me.
|Rebecca Mason explaining her work to the spectators and to Leontia Gallery’s founder, Leontia Reilly on November 6th.|
|“In Excess”, 2015.|
You have a way with words – there’s almost an element of storytelling to your work. Does this come naturally to you?
come naturally to me in so far as I can talk and talk… but I don’t think
the actual flow of them does come naturally. At times my English is
appalling, though I am a stickler for apostrophes/their/there/you’re/your, etc. I am one of those people who go off on tangents and into a lot
of detail, so I would struggle to write an actual coherent and succinct
story. The way I compose my pieces can take months to get the order,
appearance and flow of words just how I want them, so it doesn’t seem to
be too natural if it takes that long! I am certainly someone who would
always prefer to write something down rather than say it out loud – I
can sometimes struggle to articulate what I mean verbally but find it
easier in text. Anyone who has worked with me knows I always love a long email over a telephone call! Sometimes my everyday emails can be a
stream of consciousness and although my artwork can look like that too,
it is actually very carefully constructed with a lot of thought. What
does come naturally to me though is wearing my heart on my sleeve and
being very honest about my feelings, and I think that comes across. My
natural outlook on life is neither optimism nor pessimism. I think I
can be pretty cynical but also see the positives – and I hope that comes
across in what I do. I rarely see anything in black or white though,
I’m forever on the fence. Not through weakness of thought, but because I
love to know as much as possible and can see various sides – rarely is
anything clear cut. I think that comes across too – I think this is
largely due to the result of my years of studying Economics, which is, in my view, more of an
art than a science.
|“Waiting For FedEx”, 2015.|
you consider collaborations with different kinds of businesses, like
restaurants, food chains, or shops? Or even taking it ‘to the streets’
so to speak, as street art is so big at the moment?
have a number of pieces in bars, restaurants, etc. and am working on a
collaboration right now with an amazing West End venue and a well-known
drink producer. I would never just do signage though – the work has to
stick to what I am about and include my themes. I also just did the
project with The Other Art Fair involving La Fée Absinthe – a brand that
I think fitted the concept of the room really well, and I had
total freedom to do what I wanted anyway. They just provided lots of
lovely Absinthe for me to serve up to visitors (and myself…).
|Screen prints of Rebecca’s work at Leontia Gallery.|
Tell us about one of your pieces – whichever one you would say is your most personal, or feel proud about or ‘close’ to…
are all like a diary of my life so each has a special reminder for me –
I can remember exactly what the driver was for each one. If I had to
choose, then “You’re My Favourite Mistake” (Error, see below) is probably my
favourite, partly because it is so popular, but also because there is a
lot of me in it – all the sides of my character and life are in that
piece. That said, when I read other ones I feel the same way! My “The Unbearable Paranoia of Being” (Fact? Fiction?) is also one that includes
so many of the things I am passionate about and is really questioning a
lot of “truths” and states of being. “Can I Make It Better With The Lights Turned On?” (I’m scared) is the first one of the series of my
more heartfelt pieces with the text on the background, so that one is
always pretty special. At the time I did that piece I felt very
strongly about something and I can still recall the emotions I had at
the time, so that one has a special place.
|Screen print of “You’re My Favourite Mistake (White)”, 2015.|
Career wise, would you change anything about your trajectory?
at all. I have been extremely fortunate. The life and career
experience I have had before focusing on art is what I put into the art,
so everything that got me to where I am today is important for where I
am right now.
|“And So We Fall”, 2014.|
What’s next for Rebecca Mason?
taking it a little easier now until the end of 2015, as this year has
been so insanely busy – I’m now taking a step back to focus on making
new pieces. To do my pieces I have to spend a lot of time sitting
around – ideally on long train journeys! – on my own, thinking, analysing… I really need to feel what I am writing about and can’t do so if I
am under pressure or distracted. As they are about life in general I
also need to live my life – everything is material! The good things, the
bad things – the key is taking the time to experience them. The themes
come naturally to me when I have spare time so I am looking forward to
taking a bit of that time to produce new work. The ideas have been
flowing already and I have a number of new pieces under production, plus
some over a year old that are half finished and need to be sorted out! I will also finish the piece using the confessions/secrets from The Other Art Fair so I can show that early next year. I always post in
progress pieces on Instagram so people can follow me there to see what
is coming up!
All photographs taken my me on October 31st and November 6th, 2015 at Leontia Gallery’s Old Street pop up exhibition “There And Now”.
© Vanessa Zaree, November 2015. All Rights Reserved. Any unauthorised broadcasting, public performance, copying or re-recording will constitute an infringement of copyright.