26 Nov, 2009

Rachel Evans-Milne obituary

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

The eruption of the Young British Artists phenomenon in the early 1990s made London the best place in the world in which to graduate in art. My dear friend Rachel Evans-Milne, who has died aged 44 of motor neurone disease, rode the YBA wave brilliantly.

She was born Rachel Evans in Cardiff, the oldest of three sisters, and studied fine art in Manchester, finishing at the Royal College of Art, London, in 1988. Rachel – impressive with her boyish good looks and quiet charisma – left a jar of honey in each RCA student’s studio, the label of which she had personalised, declaring a secret, sweet, sticky love for the recipient. She made dresses out of icing sugar and sang Dolly Parton love songs while wearing them. She presented 100 gingham-topped jam jars, disguised as a Women’s Institute offering, but with the labels describing sexually explicit fantasies.

Rachel’s image appeared on the cover of the second edition of Frieze art magazine in 1991. Her work was included in Bad Girls at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in 1994, as well as shows at the Lisson, Anthony D’Offay and Victoria Miro galleries, travelling the world with exhibitions in Japan, New York and Paris. However, she had a problem with how showing her work made her feel, so even while her peers were marvelling at her trajectory, Rachel had realised that she no longer wanted to be an artist. She reached this decision with typical clarity, optimism and authority.

Rachel taught art at Bath Spa University, mentoring and inspiring many young people. In 1998 she met her future husband, Al Milne. They moved to Brighton with their two young children and Rachel retrained as a counsellor, specialising in children and young adults.

In the summer of 2007 she was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. Although it took so much from her, it never diminished her. She never stopped thinking of others, and preparing those she loved for the loss of her. This radiant, funny, kind woman was always someone who knew what to do next. She generously spent much of her life gently giving others the confidence to do the same.

Rachel is survived by Al and their children, Hamish and Robin.

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