Rachel Carmichael was born in Oxford in the United Kingdom in 1955. In 1960 when she was five years old she arrived in Australia, where her father had accepted an academic appointment at Sydney University.
The family moved to the (then) bush land suburb of Oyster Bay, which was the residence at that time, to a number of artists and intellectuals, who instilled a slightly Bohemian flavour to the otherwise narrow suburban culture of 1960s Australia. Rachel remembers attending Bert Flugelman’s (b. 1923) performance art piece “The Black Box” in the late 1960’s. As a child, Rachel grew up in a home with abstract art on the walls, ceramic vases and ashtrays and sea-grass matting, which defined her family environment as one that was unusual and “artistic”!
Although she studied art to HSC level, Rachel pursued different interests while at Sydney University, where she completed, in the late 1970’s a Bachelor of Arts with Honours. The 1980’s were a period of teaching and travelling. Initially, Rachel taught children with a variety of learning and social problems. Her classroom teaching involved the development of art therapy as an integral part of the curriculum, where art provided an opportunity to learn and an avenue of self-expression. Later Rachel moved on to work with deaf adolescents and later as an interpreter (using signing) for deaf students undertaking tertiary art studies.
During this time, Rachel also travelled to Britain, Spain, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Thailand, Bali and the Solomon Islands where she sought out local artists and acquired a number of pieces of traditional and contemporary art.
After the birth of her first daughter in 1988, Rachel found time to pursue her artistic dreams. Throughout the 1990’s Rachel worked as a professional artist and continued to do so after the birth of a second child in 1997. The sale of her paintings allowed her husband to stay at home (admittedly on a shoe-string budget), for the next two years so that the continuity and development of Rachel’s work was encouraged.
The 1990’s were the period when Rachel’s art developed into the style that is so recognisable now. At first, she began painting boxes, mirrors, chests and screens, where her early figurative style evolved. She completed a number of exhibitions in Sydney with a group and a solo show at Cornucopia Gallery. Her work was also featured in The Australian Naive Gallery, Phillips & Co. Seasons Gallery, Macquarie University, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Innercity Clayworkers Gallery, Cairns Regional Gallery and Jill Richards Gallery. In more recent years Rachel has been represented by exhibitions in Sydney and Queensland and has continued to work as a full-time painter. In 2008 Rachel’s artwork was featured as the front cover illustration for the novel “Voyages” by Jenny Wood, published by Zeus Publications, Australia. In 2012, Rachel Carmichael was the winner of the Thirroul Seaside Art Competition.
The major influences in Rachel’s work are all figurative painters. She is attracted to the early work of Australian artists Charles Blackman, Arthur Boyd and Robert Dickerson, as well as John Brack and Michael Leunig. European influences are found in the work of Marc Chagall, Balthus, Otto Dix, George Grosz and Paula Rego as well as from Latin American artists Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Botero. Rachel also admires the early 1930’s work of Walt Disney Studios, particularly their groundbreaking use of colour, new animation techniques and characterisation.
Rachel’s own work is stylized and pictorial, using decorative surfaces, touches of gilt and metallic effects. Her emphasis is on individual characters and their private thoughts and she sees her work as “emotional rather than intellectual and personal rather than political”.
Rachel is a committed painter and surrounds herself with an eclectic community of writers, artists and performers.