Rachel GlittenbergOccasionally – it doesn’t happen often – one comes across a ‘local artist’ whose technique and execution seem, even to the untrained eye, to transcend that label. Rachel Glittenberg, whose latest exhibition ‘Curious Beings’ is currently showing at Café Gratitude on Norman Road, is one such artist.

Rachel borrows elements from history and folklore to explore what it means to be a woman in the 21st century. The women she paints are at ease with themselves and often address the viewer with a challenging gaze and careless posture. The paintings ‘Curious Beings’ and ‘The Two Eves’ are cases in point. These are women who are not afraid of their sexuality. Rachel says: “I want my women to be challenging to look at, confrontational even.” In both paintings, the subjects sit with their legs open, a typically male stance, conveying dominance. Their postures are expressions of their sense of self. “As a woman, I do feel it is my duty to portray my female figures as flourishing and having a voice.” Another device Rachel likes to employ is to make a feature of the subject’s eyes to draw in the viewer; clearly shown in ‘Being Tilda’ (the show’s poster image and featured on the back page of Issue 74 of HIP). These figures are powerful yet feminine, demonstrating strength in their vulnerability.

It is perhaps unusual to see work of this quality in a small, homely venue such as Café Gratitude, rather than the wide-open spaces of a gallery. The café is owned by friends of Rachel, although she is refreshingly direct about her desire to have her work noticed: “If an opportunity opens up to exhibit my work and it feels right, then I’ll do it.” A slightly more prestigious venue awaits her self-portrait ‘In Looking Out’. The painting has been selected for the longlist of the Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait Prize 2017, which carries a first prize of £10,000. After the award on Wednesday 17th May, all the works will be hung at London’s Piano Nobile Gallery in Kings Cross until 22nd September. The exhibition is free and open to the public, so this represents a terrific opportunity for this compelling artist’s work to be seen and discussed by a wider audience.

CURIOUS BEINGS until 27th May, Tuesday – Saturday 10am-4.30pm Gratitude Café 39 Norman Road St Leonards-on-Sea

For more information about the artist see www.rachelglittenberg.com