TJ Boulting presents the gallery’s first solo show with South African artist HelenA Pritchard.
A 2011 graduate from the Royal College of Art MA in Painting, since then her work has expanded beyond the realms of painting into the sculptural, the object and most recently beyond that into the extra dimension of light. The common thread between them all being her utilisation of form, colour and material.
I had the chance to speak with Helen about her artistic practise and upcoming exhibition.
How did you become involved in creating art?
I’ve always arranged objects into natural still lives and orders that made sense to me. It’s an intuitive way of understanding the world around me, something I could do for myself; my own expression, my own space, an escape, if you like. I’ve painted since I can remember, but that somehow seemed separate, running parallel from my object arrangements. I have consistently used a plethora of materials, but the object-making, arrangements and still lives were not seen as an actual art practice in 1980s South Africa and in my young mind.
What inspires / motivates you?
You use a variety of materials, combining painting and sculpture with everyday objects; has this always been part of your artistic practise?
What I thought it was to be an artist/painter/sculptor has since changed drastically. Growing up in South Africa we had little to no contemporary art galleries. So what I needed was to engage with traditions of art, the technical aspect of art-making, and now having acquired a few skills I have only gone and misemployed them using them in a defunct way. Now my object-making, painting and installation has come together. In hindsight I think I was always aware of this intuitive, organic, yet formal way of making connections between things; works, objects and space.
To what extent is there a sense of narrative behind each material?
The material is important because of its history. The fabric pieces are made from dressmaking and embroidery materials that hold memories of what it is to be a woman growing up in an oppressive society. I enjoyed the tools of a woman, but I knew I didn’t enjoy the context of the making, it took the enjoyment out of the skills I had learnt; i.e. dressmaking, embroidery, knitting, cooking: These are things a woman had to do if they were to marry. My work explores the anti,unfixed and impermanent, employing materials and process in opposition to the supposed.
I learnt oil painting and established methods only to turn them on their heads; like in the series of ‘Neutral Paintings’ 2005-2016 where the application of the grey paint tones seem to be without all the traditions of oil painting, and then covered by a layer of tinted perspex. Then in the ‘Square Series’ 2005-2016, where the oil paint has been over-painted with household gloss paint and then covered in steel mesh, which can also be seen as fences of segregation, material as metaphor. Both these series hide the hand behind the machine, so I think that is an obvious analogy of what it is like to be from Africa living in the West. Once I had the knowledge and understanding, I felt the control to do as I pleased with traditions and techniques within the material.
Have you got any future projects / plans lined up?
I wish to travel by residencies and collaborate with fellow artist Ilenia Bombardi on my projection project of found objects, using light and the ephemerality of things. The importance is that the works don’t have to exist after the moment of making. The experience and the people who participate is all we have to go on, documentation of still film clips and photographs.
But then I also have some future projects of my own. A few themed exhibitions to be precise, which are closed and finished ideas and somewhat conceptual, a bit of the Emperor’s new clothes meets with popular cultural art work of different countries. The other is a larger scale sculpture project I have been working on called The Confessionals, an ambitious outdoor project, which will entail some funding.
– Harry Dougall
Encounters HelenA Pritchard, will be on view at TJ Boulting, 69 Riding House Street, London, W1W 7EG, from 07 Apr 16 – 07 May 16, Open Tues – Sat, 11am – 6pm, Admission: FREE