Helen examines the relationship between the human and other-than human at this critical time for life on Earth. The vitality and energy of materials, natural processes and elements contribute to the making of the work, raising questions about power, agency, and interdependence.
Helen works on-site, immersing herself in the environments she is researching and drawing on a full range of sensory and emotional responses to question and communicate the multiple ways we come to 'know'. Helen completed her MA Fine Art at, Camberwell College of Art, UAL in 2021.
Food waste eco-print on paper
‘’It was, they were certain, a calling down of something upon the draining.’’ (Fen, Daisy Johnson)
This piece emerged from research I was doing in the Fens in East Anglia as part of my MA Fine Art project before the pandemic hit. I chose the area specifically as I had ancestral links there but was also interested in finding out more about my ‘geological roots’. I have been concerned about our relationship to the non-human world and the climate catastrophe for a long time now and I was researching land, soil, and land use by walking. I was reading about the carbon cycle, carbon sinks and the violent impact of humans on the land. The work began here and speaks to the historic and environmentally catastrophic draining of the Fens and the privileging of farming monocultures but hopes to raise broader questions about our relationship with the non-human world, materiality, loss and interconnection.
Video and charcoal screenprint
The use of carbon-based materials is central to my practice given climate catastrophe and the fact that carbon is the building block for life. I am also interested in ideas around deep time and what the political philosopher Jane Bennet calls ‘thing power’. I attempt to explore the agencies, vitalities, energies and processes of things (non-humans) in an attempt to ask questions about power, agency, knowledge, perception and awareness. I’m thinking about ‘decentralising’ the human as possibility. This work came from my working with wind and ash, light and shadow. The dark shadow of the climate catastrophe, the need not to turn away – the carbon-scapes rather than land- or sea-scapes – the human impact on the environment, the dangers and risks, the need to connect and reconnect.
TASTE FOR EARTH
Snail, rainwater, charcoal, pigment, beeswax, soil, paper
This piece began as part of my MA research project where I was documenting disrupted weather systems and researching soil. I was interested in ideas around ‘becoming indigenous’ as described by T.J. Demos in his book ‘Decolonizing Nature – Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology’, 2016. The pandemic had hit, and I moved my research from the Fens to my garden and a small, very polluted, urban brook at the back of my garden. I’m interested in edges, borders, layers and liminal spaces and the brook’s edge became my focus. I was exploring a sense of place, that under lockdown, I felt took on a whole new dimension and I was interested in the idea of restricting my focus and going deep. Edges and borders are complex – ever-changing, political, and diverse – the brook’s edge therefore became a useful metaphor for broader issues.
I view the making of this piece as a human-nonhuman assemblage, a collaboration if you like. Decomposition, decay, weather, and hungry snails were all involved in the making.