Rebecca’s work is based on careful observational drawing as a way of seeing, recording, investigating and analyzing. During her time at the Royal College of Art she worked mainly in watercolour, drawing bird skins at the Natural History Museum and ethnographic artefacts made from feathers at the British Museum. Her interest in feather artefacts stems from a year spent living in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea (in 1982) and subsequently studying social anthropology at Cambridge University.
Rebecca is artist in residence at the British Museum, Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas (AOA). From 2005-2010 she was part of of a research group at the British Museum working on the relatively little-known Melanesian collections. She is now working on an art project documenting the move of the AOA collections from storage in Shoreditch to a new premises at the British Museum North Entrance.
Rebecca’s work is about exploring the shared histories between the people that made these artefacts, the explorers, anthropologists and travelers that obtained them and the museum that now houses them. In storage the object is numbered, labeled, catalogued, photographed and measured; yet its aesthetic qualities can still be appreciated.
"There is a magic, routinely practiced by artists, that transforms the way we see our world. A shark floating in a tank of formaldehyde becomes a 'must see’ modern cultural totem worshipped by crowds that would in turn ignore objects belonging to a ‘primitive' religious past but retaining persistence in folk memory and superstition. It is therefore doubly ironic that Jewell’s art provides an access to this shared heritage by applying old fashioned technique to a contemporary art context and in doing so she produces beautiful, original work that shares with its subject matter an elusive and often unsettling undertow of meaning." Paul Bayley, Director, Florence Trust, 2009.
"Over the last five to ten years, Rebecca Jewell has produced increasingly exciting and beautiful work that represents a homage to Pacific works of art, to the beauty of the natural specimens sometimes collected along with them, and to the strangeness of their colonial and contemporary journeys." Nicholas Thomas, Director, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge, 2011.