Helen Booth in her studio. (Image Leia Morrison).
Artist Helen Booth will present her solo exhibition, We All Share the Same Sky, at Oriel Davies Gallery in Newtown from July 28 to October 4.
The exhibition will show her largest-scale abstract paintings to date and oscillate between impulsive gestures and intricate repetitive mark-making that celebrates and explores the actual medium of paint.
Her work is firmly rooted in the landscape and teeters on the edge of the void, asking questions of the sublime, beauty and brevity of the human condition. Her residency and subsequent visits to paint and draw in Iceland are central to her exhibited works.
“My affinity with the cold north led me to visit Iceland in 2018, ‘19 and again in 2023, said Helen. “The visits changed my life. I know it sounds dramatic, but how the landscape affected me fundamentally impacted how I look at my life and make my work.
“I have a palpable fear of this landscape, but it makes me feel so alive. Something magic happens in all the solitude.”
Steffan Jones-Hughes, Oriel Davies Gallery director, said: “When I first saw Helen’s work, I could see that it was on a journey, the trajectory was limitless space and time. These new works are ambitious in scale and are her strongest paintings to date.
“There is something about the layers of mark that takes me beyond the process, which itself is fascinating, and allows me to empty my mind and focus on the ever-changing space within the work. The feeling is transcendental.
“There is a sense of weightlessness as the work absorbs you into its own universe. As I meditate on these statements, I think I sound ridiculous, but the truth is the work allows you to feel transported to somewhere else, somewhere other.
“Helen’s ability to create this sensation comes from its galactic connotations; the dream-like mapping of dark skies; imagining the grains of black volcanic sand on the beach in Iceland, or the bubbles in the ice.
“In some ways these are landscape paintings. They’re created with urgency and a frenetic energy, they are elemental, embodying the tumult of tectonic plate shifts and glacial flow, at the same time providing a Romantic idyll of peace and natural harmony.
“The sensations Helen describes on her trips to Iceland are embodied in the canvas. Immersive, calming, unpredictable. The wholeness of life is there in front of you.”
Like many female artists, Helen has often struggled financially to produce her work. However, a hysterectomy five years ago, followed by six weeks of convalescing, forced her to face her own mortality and sharpen her drive.
She won two major awards - Pollock Krasner Award for Painting and Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation Award - followed by a residency in Iceland which completely honed her creative practice.
Steffan invited Helen to exhibit at Oriel Davies two years ago and she has spent this time creating work, mostly in isolation, during the Covid pandemic.
“There is nothing like waiting for hospital results to focus your mind on what is important,” added Helen. “Thankfully, my health scare was just that - a scare, but I realised I had so much more I wanted to do creatively.
“Winning both American awards, followed by my visit to Iceland, felt like I was literally rising from the ashes.”
Her exhibition will show large-scale monochromatic paintings accompanied by works on paper and film.
Helen was born in Burton on Trent in 1967 and works in West Wales. She studied at Wimbledon School of Art, graduating in Fine Art Painting in 1989. A residency supported by Wales Arts International at the Hafnarborg Arts and Culture Centre in Iceland has greatly informed her practice. Her work is in private collections worldwide.
Helen will also be speaking to several artists, curators, academics and publishers as part of a digital offering to accompany her exhibition. These include Phoebe Smith, writer and explorer, Richard Davey, writer, academic and university chaplain and Rebecca Morrill, head of art publishing at Phaidon Books. These conversations can be watched at helenbooth.com/in-conversation.
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