Spells, Spires and Other Delicate Business
In Helen’s first solo show at the gallery, transformation through obsession and the examination of reverence are the central underpinnings of the work; an obsessional examination that mounts through the manipulation of layering and patterning that builds a central focal point within each piece. By drawing upon the analogy of a place of reverence within the boundaries of the canvas, and guided by intuition, the concentration of mark making allows the work to attain presence and aesthetically communicate on a human level. The hand made mark, instantly familiar, proves more powerful than language.
The repetition, accentuation and negation of the brushwork in these paintings echoes transmutation – philosophical and scientific. By engaging with color manipulation relating to stages (or steps) within the practice, and the layering of each, one on top of the last, the surface becomes a dense, interwoven tapestry. This layering can be viewed in terms of the stages of transmutation and individuation within the evolution of the psyche, or as a historical process – both applied to the process of creating a painting. The paintings are “built” from the inside out, mimicking the human form – a painted ecorche within which remains all stages as it’s full history and anatomy. Originally vibrantly colored, the final “skin” of white paint, ties the sometimes disparate elements together and is symbolic of a state of balance or equilibrium.
The patterning that composes each image is sourced from vastly different cultural arenas within both Eastern and Western aesthetic traditions: Paleolithic and Neo-Paleolithic fetish objects, West African ceremonial masks, Greek Icon painting, Italian and Northern Renaissance altarpieces, Jewish ceremonial textiles such as Tallit and Torah arks, Islamic prayer rugs, alchemical diagrams and geometric references to mathematical equations. The infinite visual variation humanity has used to give tangibility to the unknown, provides an inexhaustible storehouse of ideas – a flexible conceptual architecture that allows for continuous inclusion of new, obscure and sometimes just plain weird source material. By decoding and repurposing the source material into the skeleton of each structure, a contemporary devotional figure emerges as a central mass, allowing the reference points to both meld and compete with each other. Exploring humanity’s yearning attempts of accurately depicting the undepictable, is a seductive draw.