Other Worlds, 2020.
Ink, acrylic and oil on canvas.
Diameter: 50 cm.
Ph credit & courtesy of the artist.
Recently, I considered how a series of Wilderness paintings begun in 2018 had segued into current work, and concluded that sense of isolation was what they had in common.
Prior to 2018, my focus was on the individual, and the continuous struggle to find balance.
Starting with the Californian fires of 2018 – when the town of Paradise was lost – my interest has been in the world, and the necessity for humankind to treat it with respect and re-introduce balance in our activities. Wittingly or not, we destroy, deplete and create imbalances in the natural world.
The spread of Covid 19 is just one more consequence of human incursions into nature.
Our advancements and developments, if not curtailed, will ultimately see the destruction of our planet, and life as we know it.
There is both strength and fragility in the recent work, and a constant change of perspective – zooming in and out from the detail to the broad stroke. The scale has dramatically reduced, just as our individual physical worlds have become smaller.
One source of influence has been my nightly urban walks (under artificial streetlighting) and these became, during Lockdown, the ritual focus for observations – looking at nature in all its glory, not in the wild, but as it occurs in tiny pockets in built up areas.
At first, it was simply the shapes – trunk and branch, slow emergence of bud, leaf and blossom – the microcosms of earlier grand wildernesses… Then it was little acts of restoration, noticing, planting, taking cuttings, cultivation on a small scale – hoping for an eventual swing in the right direction. These acts were my personal antidote to anxiety, negativity and the worldwide destruction of wild spaces. I can’t change the world, but I can take simple steps in my own environment.
I feed my painting practice with reading, watching TV programmes, looking at images, observational work, collage work, and writing. Then, when I paint, I give way to an intuitive process, allowing myself to wander where I will. It is a journey… destination unknown.
Helen Gaynor studied and worked in music and education, then graduated from NCAD in Fine Art, Painting, and was later awarded a First Class MA in Creative Writing from UCD.
Solo exhibitions include Cutting The Lake, 2019, All One Breath, 2018, The Road to Bages, France, 2016, SeaChange, WAC, 2009, Colour Garden, Waterford, 2005, Home, Hallward Gallery, Dublin, 2004, Sea stories and other tales, VEC, Featured Artist, 2000, Wexford Festival, Consider Eve, Eigse, Carlow, 1999, (invited artist), Soul searching, dream seeking, Wexford Arts Centre, 1998.
Awards include Wexford County Council Bursary for Visual Arts in 2000, Artlinks Mentoring Award in 2008/9 for Visual Arts, Artlinks multidisciplinary Bursary in 2011, Artlinks Mentoring in Writing in 2013, and a Bursary for Literature in 2015. She was shortlisted/highly commended for the Gregory O Donoghue International Poetry Prize in 2013.
Her art practice has included collaborative improvisation work with musicians to create sound pieces, and frequently her painted pieces link with her poetry. Her paintings are in public and private collections in Ireland, France, the UK and US.
In 2017, she co-curated a 2-venue show for Wexford Co Council and Wexford Arts Centre with Catherine Bowe.