Photo: Helen Snell in Combeinteignhead, South West

Helen Snell

Artist
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Combining the mass produced and the unique is, for me, humorous and ironical and full of suggestion and contradiction. I am interested in the process of reproduction (printmaking, laser cutting, high tech and lo-tech) and also by the theme of reproduction (with reference to the ethical debate surrounding biotechnology, genetics, sex and consumerism). My work is also informed by the relationship between image and paper engineering. Printed images and multiples enable a process of vulgarisation, undermine the obsession with originality, so that content becomes the primary concern. The repetition of the same imagery echoes our obsession with labels and brands as assurances of quality and also, paradoxically, echoes our fears provoked by images of cloning and other genetic interventions. I am especially interested in the idea of the imperfect edition. Traditionally a printmaker is to be congratulated on his or her skill in producing a perfect edition. I have always found this to be a very mechanical approach; after the thrill of pulling the first few prints the process is predictable, a routine. To subvert the idea of an edition is exciting and a good metaphor for the paradoxical relationship between group identity and individuality. In the natural world we are familiar with classification along the lines of type yet on reflection every single leaf on a beech tree, as well as being true to type, is distinctly different. I often take my starting point from commercial packaging nets that I customise in terms of structure and scale. Individual structures can then become units in a giant construction set, with the potential for endless configurations or systematic modifications and reworkings according to context. My current series of laser cut paper and acrylic vessels explore the theme of survival. I have produced these works during my residency in the laser cutting studios at Plymouth College of Art and Design. The initial impetus for these works was a commission from Dartington Arts to work with veteran U.S. site specific choreographer Stephan Koplowitz and his company Taskforce for LIQUID LANDSCAPES, a series of water related dance performances in Plymouth in June 2009. I was commissioned to produce a site specific installation of over 300 multi coloured paper vessels that the dancers responded to at the Mayflower Steps. The first designs focused on a simple net shape and were all hand cut. The first prototype boat shape was based on a commercial packaging net, but I have repeatedly customised this and loaded it with imagery to produce a range of more complex laser cut vessels. The boat can be seen as a life raft piled high with remnants of lost lands, a salvage vessel or Noah’s Arc. The devil is in the detail however; the imagery reveals that, in our rush to discover pastures new or to escape the exhausted and derelict, we bring with us unwanted passengers, be they stowaways in the form of non indigenous species, viruses, and voracious technologies, or simply our own inadequacies. Trees become intertwined with storm clouds, fumes from factory chimneys intermix with streams of water, figures are engulfed by the waves. read full statement

Location Combeinteignhead, South West
Activities Lecturing, Practice-based research, Residencies, Public art, Private commissions
Artforms Digital, Installation, Mixed Media, Research, Sculpture
Tags laser cut, paper cut, water jet cut, multiples, imperfect editions, installation

News & Events

  • Stewarts Law RCA Secret 2014, London

    There are a couple of my postcards hiding in there somewhere! http://home.secret.rca.ac.uk/

  • Oriel Davies Open 2014

    19/04/2014 – 18/06/2014
    Oriel Davies Gallery, Newtown, Powys, Wales

    One of my laser cut layered paper works entitled Lifebuoy with Filaments has been selected for the 2014 Open.

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  • BURNT OUT

    13/09/2014 – 01/11/2014
    Chapel Gallery, Ormskirk

    Funded by a grant from Arts Council England, this exhibition has been inspired by access to iconic artefacts held within the collections of the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth.

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  • BURNT OUT

    15/11/2014 – 04/01/2015
    Shire Hall Gallery, Staffordshire

    Funded by a grant from Arts Council England, this exhibition has been inspired by access to iconic artefacts held within the collections of the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth.

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  • The Journey: Exploring the Nature of Mending.

    14/09/2013 – 27/10/2013
    Wallford Mill Crafts

    Exploring the layers of meaning, cultural and emotional, that are evoked by mending, repair and re-use

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  • intoLACE

    14/09/2013 – 02/11/2013
    Thelma Hulbert Gallery and Devon Guild of Craftsmen

    A dual site exhibition looking at references to lace in contemporary practice

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  • BURNT OUT

    05/10/2013 – 18/01/2014
    20-21 Visual Arts Centre, Scunthorpe

    National touring solo show of new large scale works supported by funding from Arts Council England through the National Lottery.

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  • BURNT OUT

    5 October to 18 January 2014 20-21 Visual Arts Centre, Scunthorpe New large-scale works made especially for the space at 20-21.

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