Rebecca Ivatts


I want to depict the body as a highly intelligent, feeling organism inseparable from mind and environment; I see the active body as a cognitive mechanism in itself.

This post-Cartesian approach to the mind-body question lies at the heart of my ‘intelligent’ bodies which bristle with organic rhythms and play with notions of externalised-internalised states. Layered fast in quick-drying media, the canvas offers a palimpsest of experience and current preoccupations which I project on to the human figure. As well as a tangible love of sculptural form, a monochrome colour palette is a recurrent feature in my work, no doubt influenced by my years in Madrid where I felt an affinity with the dark, viscerality of the Spanish old masters.

My artistic training originally centred on the human body and anatomy – my father was a biologist - but it was the antenatal scans of my own child which first inspired me to look at brain imaging and take my paintbrush ‘inside’. This transition spawned a vast body of ‘neuro’ artworks in collaboration with academics and pharma. The resulting mixed-media works – often created pouring paint from above - are at once visceral, emotional and highly educational. I truly believe that the potential of art to educate can be further exploited. In the same way that I consider neuroscientists modern-day sages, new findings in the mind-brain-body field – whether relating to neurodivergence, consciousness/perception, epigenetics or ageing - provide an exciting terra incognita for me to explore as a contemporary artist.


Rebecca Ivatts was born in Cambridge, UK in 1972. She loved drawing from an early age and grew up surrounded by the powerful life drawings of her artist godfather. As the daughter of a biologist, she was inspired by nature and organic form.

At school, Rebecca showed a prodigious talent for art and her parents were told "everything she touches turns to gold." Despite this, her (conservative) teachers were sceptical about art education in the 1990s and urged Rebecca to study Modern Languages at Oxford University instead. During her time at Brasenose College, she continued drawing at the Ruskin School of Art and, during her year abroad, at Bellas Artes, Granada university, Spain. In Paris (1995) she completed a 'stage' or work placement at the Musee d'Orsay where she admired the works of Van Gogh, Cezanne, Millet and Courbet.

After graduating, Rebecca studied 'Objective Life Drawing and Painting' at the Slade School of Art. She combined this very academic, rigorous approach to measuring and mixing colour with the freer influence of two tutors from the Royal College of Art. To consolidate her interest in the human form she took drawing + anatomy classes at the Royal Drawing School and attended dissection classes at Guy's hospital, London.

From 2004-9, Rebecca lived in Madrid. Here, she had solo shows at Galeria Standarte and Galeria TriBeCa. She was selected by Sala de Arte Van Dyck in Northern Spain as one of the six best emerging artists in the country, and exhibited in their group show for several years consecutively. While in Madrid, Rebecca gained a diploma in Painting Processes and Techniques at San Fernando Arts Academy. During her visits to the Prado and Reina Sofia, she was inspired by El Greco, Goya, Ribera, Zuloaga and Saura.

After leaving Spain, Rebecca had a one-man exhibition, ‘Body and soul’ in Athens, Greece with the support of the British Council which organised roundtable talks relating to the human figure in contemporary art. Meanwhile, her ‘Fallen Angel’ triptych of figure paintings were selected by curators for display in ev+a 2010 (Ireland's own international biennale).

At this time, Rebecca brought more scientific themes into her work, attending lectures at Cambridge University on astronomy and astrophysics. She would later be inspired by neuroscience, her work culminating in shows at the Wellcome Trust, Dementia Discovery Fund and British Neuroscience Festival.

In London, Rebecca showed work in a group exhibition at Morton Metropolis, and in a two-man show at SW1 gallery. For the latter, she produced vast, bold canvases of her sculptor godfather (John Pickering) and his arthritic hands – admired by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Director of the Serpentine Gallery. She would lecture on and exhibit these works at Tate Modern Exchange Festival in 2019.

While Charles Saatchi has expressed admiration for her work and the late Sir Jack Baer (who acquired many works for the National Gallery) said Rebecca's paintings possess "an exciting, neo-baroque energy", Spanish artist and art historian Joaquin Vaquero Turcios said “Rebecca’s work is imbued with a special blend of strength and vivacity, she will go far.”

Rebecca has sold works to a wide range of eminent individuals – from heads of pharma to film directors to interior designers - and has works in private collections in the UK, USA, Spain, Greece, Italy and France.

In addition to her studio work, Rebecca has taught at The Guardian, Dover Arts Club, Cambridge University, The How To Academy and Circulo de Bellas Artes in Madrid.