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Rebecca Rezakhani-Hilton; Introducing Us To Surreal Worlds

Self proclaimed Artist, Writer and Director, Rebecca Rezakhani Hilton has just concluded hosting her own exhibition at the prestigious St. Marys School in Wiltshire, after spending the last two years as their artist in residence. The exhibition showcases the highlights of her work whilst at the school, centring around the theme of ‘Water’. Through an array of artistic mediums including film, print and poetry, Rebecca introduces us to surreal worlds including a small town occupied entirely by frogs and mermaids hanging out in the LA desert. Unsettled spoke to Rebecca about the show and her exciting future in the creative industry.

So, tell us about the exhibition?

Water is a pop up solo exhibition as part of my artist residency at St. Mary’s School. Named after one of my pieces showcased in the exhibition, the show is a unique and concise selection of my work, including hand made books, collages and a narrative film. The books range in styles from poetry to scripts, with genres leaning towards what I enjoy most such as surreal comedy and bricolage, all based around the repeated theme of Water. The exhibitions main piece is a film titled Pool and Towel. The story follows a sassy new towel, excited to be used for the first time, and a bumbling old swimming pool at a local leisure centre, both experiencing feelings of loneliness and asking each other lots of inquisitive questions. I really like stories where objects or ideas are the basis of the characters, making them quite hard to grasp as personalities and adding aspects of surrealism.

What’s it been like aiding a new generation of artists at the school?

I feel the impact I had there has been great on the environment of the school and I think the students really benefited from having a creative person around. I had never done teaching before so it was a big challenge as I had to build curriculum from scratch then lead the lessons and create workshops for the students, but I really enjoyed sharing my skillset and work with them. I think the students got a lot out having these workshops and classes that are essentially just for fun, as so often in school they are just building their careers and doing exams but I think my classes were a nice interruption for them to explore their creativity. I found my experience in school very structured and unaccepting of individuality and I’m aware of how limiting that can be so as a teacher, I wanted to support my students to create work that they feel proud of.

Where does your inspiration come from?

I always have ideas coming to me. I just start writing, I can write five or six scripts in one sitting. I don’t really like to plan, unless its for much larger works, I usually just start typing and see what comes to mind. I like to tell stories about the people that have inspired me over the years and their lives as well as self referential stories about where I’m from and who I am including stories about queer figures as I identify as queer myself. I also get a lot of inspiration from cinema. I love movies where the surreal meets the real world like in Wings of Desire and also classic films such as Midnight Cowboy and La Strada. Recently I’ve been very inspired by science fiction movies like Dune and Fifth Element. I’ve always been intrigued by supernatural characters or humans with otherworldly qualities and I enjoy creating magical stories around these themes.

How did you discover your passion for creativity?

When I was younger, I would do arts and crafts at my grans house, making Christmas cards and what not, and I always enjoyed art classes in school but I never really considered myself an artist until I was around 16. I had a fantastic art teacher during my A-Levels who really guided my knowledge for art. I was more of a painter back then, but I’ve I always loved capturing stories through art, even with my paintings, to give my work more depth and meaning rather than just a beautiful picture. I then went on to study a foundation degree in Art & Design, which is where I discovered film following a suggestion from my tutor, as they felt my work was very cinematic. I was hesitant to branch out as I still saw myself as a painter but then I made my first film about the way people open doorhandles and I completely fell in love with the whole process of it. I think that was when I really felt a pull towards creating artwork and I realised I couldn’t enjoy anything more than I enjoyed doing this.

When did you move into film and what other works have you created since?

Whist I was at studying at Fine Art at Central Saint Martins, I tended to lean towards making film after discovering it during my foundation degree. I used to make a lot of poetry films and for my undergraduate showcase, I made a film called Storm Song which is a combination of two poems I had written called Cataclysmic Storm and Ghost Ribbon, based around the ideas of authority and power and how they are represented in society alongside fantastical imagery of mermaid like creatures swimming underwater. I also recently made a film about my grandfathers journey to England from his home country of Iran in the 1950’s and how he decided to change his name to a more Anglicised name in order to make life more comfortable for himself and his children as he found work was harder to come by with an unusual surname. During my first year at the school, I made a series called Dream Time Film Night which was an experimental film series. One of the films in the series included a sort of music and dance video following the story of a queer witch discussing matters of body positivity and curses while making potions on the beach.

Where do you see your career in the industry heading?

I’m actually about to start a new role as a treatment writer for a production company, where I will support directors by turning their creative ideas into written form, helping to bring them to life. But in terms of my own work, I’m hoping to enter my film Pool and Towel into some short film festivals in the coming months. I would love to be at a point where I can work as a full time director and writer and I have so many ideas that I can’t wait to share. I’m currently creating work on two very contrasting subject matters though, where one is much more serious and hard hitting and the other is just silly comedy, so I would like to figure out where I want to be in terms of genre, or maybe find a way to marry them up in future projects.

Do you have any more projects or exhibitions coming up soon?

I have an upcoming group exhibition at the school on 1st July, where I will be exhibiting my films and a selection of my 35mm photographs alongside other artists. Also, to conclude the ending of my artist residency, I have been invited to submit a legacy piece, which is a piece of artwork that will be displayed in the permanent collection of art in the school. I am working on my own projects also. I’m currently writing a short film about two witches attempting to concoct an anti-ageing potion alongside some other short films, but I am mostly working towards a post apocalyptic, sci-fi feature film, of which I would really like to begin producing in the next couple of years.

Keep an eye out for new projects from Rebecca via her Instagram page: @rebecca_hilton_

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