Tell us a bit about yourself and your practice, how would you describe the work that you do?
I am an artist who works both visually and sonically, based in Flax Art Studios in Belfast, N. Ireland. I work in diverse mediums, including installation, drawing, interactive digital, performance and sound. Atmosphere is central to my work, I use immaterial materials alongside everyday objects, setting up paradoxes between the intangible and physical, and the visual and affective. The underlying process of my work is repetition, and exploring the expressive and meditative effects that occur with repeated acts.
At the core of my practice is a constant self-exploration, continuing the theme of meditation, and through doing this, challenging the world around me. I also create work which is about being in the moment, being present - again the theme of meditativeness. What I mean by "challenging the world around me" is that my aim is to uncover the potential and latent energy in a single moment and through doing this challenge how we perceive our realities both sonically and visually in our contemporary fast-paced and ephemeral lifestyle.
Helena Hamilton, Untitled (With), Edition of 36, 2018
What made you become an artist?
I don’t think there is anything is particular that made me want to become an artist, it was just a process of discovering what interested me - as a teenager I loved both design technology and art at school and this has continued to grow into my practice using new media. Prior to this, as a young child, I was always trying to figure out how objects worked, often taking them apart and usually never being a able to put them back together again - so I’ve always been inquisitive I guess, fascinated by how the world around me is constructed, always wanting to know ‘how’ and ‘why’.
What do you want an audience or participants to take away from your work?
I don’t have a prescribed ‘ideal version’ of audience understanding…all I can say is that I create to dissect my world, to feel more present and at home in it and I try to capture aspects of this in each of my works. I guess my hope is that people feel ‘space’ around them, space to think, observe and connect, both to themselves and the world around them, to see a reflection of themselves in it. But, as everyone knows, you can only construct the narrative so far - I do hope people feel some sort of connection between themselves and their environment though.
Helena Hamilton, NOTETOADISTANTGOD, 2010 - 2018
Tell us a bit more about repetition in your work and the meditative effect it has.
I see repetition as a way of familiarising myself with the chosen material. Through repetition a more natural interaction occurs, you begin to think about the material in different ways - enabling me to look and listen anew. I come from a performance art background and was fascinated by durational works that occurred in controlled environments (see ‘NOTETOADISTANTGOD’), I saw this as a way of delving deep into my natural self - not acting but ‘being’, creating an environment that encouraged honesty and authenticity. This has obviously filtered down into how I create my digital, sound and installation works - it’s all a process of controlled listening , looking etc with certain ‘rules’ I make a long the way e.g. the only audio effect used is filtering (Untitled (With)), use only chalk and human effort during interaction (Untitled (Drawing)).
My husband is also a Nichiren buddhist, his repetitive chant of ‘Nam Myoho Renge Kyo’ in our house also naturally affects how I create and use repetition in my work - their is a power to repetition.
Helena Hamilton, Untitled (Drawing), 2015
How did your residency in Tokyo come about and what was that like?
My studio in Belfast, ‘Flax Art Studios’, has an exchange residency set up with ‘Art Centre Ongoing’ in Tokyo. One of our artists goes over to Tokyo for two months, and one of their artists comes to Belfast for two months - it’s such a great opportunity for exchange and example of how organisations can work together.
My time in Tokyo was so inspiring, it’s just so different culturally so it can’t be anything but inspiring! The residency also came at a really important point in my career - one which I needed to really focus and create new work. Before going to Tokyo I had been working on a lot of digital pieces, I wanted to get back into the physical. This was my third residency, in previous residencies I would put myself under a lot of pressure to make and create (and, to be honest, not really liking a lot of the work I create). So I went to Tokyo with a different mindset, to really absorb everything around me in my own time. I spent the first month walking as much as I could around the city, recording audio and taking photos/videos, the centre was quite ‘hands off’ and left you to it - which suited me perfectly, I like to explore on my own. The second month I started to naturally build on this - there was an exhibition at the end, this was an insight into works that were still very much in progress, the only ‘finished’ work was my composed audio piece (https://soundcloud.com/helenahamilton/tokyo-001). I am still working out some ideas from that residency.
Helena Hamilton, 2 Month Residency in Tokyo, 2016
Which artists working at the moment do you admire?
I draw inspiration from sound artists, composers as well as visual artists. Steve Reich has been very influential to how I work with sound - his ‘phasing’ compositional technique really inspired me. Other artists that I really admire at the minute include Luke DeBois, Ryoichi Kurokawa, Beryl Korot, musician Tim Hecker, Ryoji Ikeda and composer Shiva Feshareki.
What projects have you got coming up?
At the moment I’m busy working on some private commissions of my interactive sculptural works. I’m also working on a collaborative work with composer and turntablist Shiva Feshareki (www.shivafeshareki.co.uk), I’m quite excited about this actually - i’m working on video projections that she will manipulate live during her performances. This will be an ongoing collaborative work that will develop over time, it will be first showcased in her performance in The Lowry on 24th March.
I had a really busy year last year, I’ve just taken down a my latest show that ended in January at the Golden Thread Gallery. So I’m getting back into the studio to work on some new pieces. I recently custom built my own computer as I’m getting really into 3D modelling and photogrammetry at the minute - I’m not sure what will come of it, but I tend to get obsessed with certain things and then they naturally find their way into my work. I just love learning and challenging how I work.