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Art Watch : Helen Flockhart

Helen Flockhart is in focus for our Art Watch for today. This section is brought to you by Art From Us and Divvya Nirula. The Artists we spotlight here can be from any field, across any discipline, and using a variety of media. We share here why we think they are important and worth watching. Be it genius creators of eras gone by. Or the upcoming contemporary artist who is yet to have their first show. All come under the purview of Art Watch.

Helen Flockhart’s images are compelling, without a single doubt. The vivid colours and the intricately painted backgrounds hold the viewer enthralled. And this is when they are drawn into the subject matter of her work, her core idea.

Helen was extremely successful in art school. She graduated with a first-division in Painting from the Glasgow School of Art. Throughout her art education Helen was intensely aware of the journey that she was being made to take. In terms of learning aspects of technique and unlearning habits that don’t serve artists. Interestingly she mentions in one of her interviews that when she studied art it was a subtle given that the most favourable direction was to become a teacher.

While she was undertaking the journey, this Scotswoman was working her path. Her inner process remained untouched and she gradually created her own philosophy on which she was going to base her work in the years to come.

The Creative Journey

Helen Flockhart describes her creative purpose as – “My paintings deal with the inexhaustible preoccupation of the human condition. I try to harness the initial urgency of an idea, conceived on paper, spreading it out and pinning it down on canvas with the deliberate and meticulous layering of clustered texture, pattern and rhythm, interweaving strands of both the personal and the mythological.’ she hopes to ‘create a feeling of stillness’ , to ‘suggest a lull, a sense of portent.’ “

For her it is important that the painting communicates immediately and clearly to the audience. And that it should not really beg an explanation. She has had many influences to her work. Ana Maria Pachecho, to Frida Kahlo, Klimt, and to the 17th century Flemish artists Lucien Freud and Rousseau.

One way to understand her work is from her own narration of how she was inspired by the models in Women’s Weekly. A magazine that arrived at her home – weekly. Like all women’s magazines they held advertisement of things relating to homes and households. One of the things were knitting patterns. One of the images that stuck on  were the women wearing lumpy cardigans. Looking at intricate patterns and creating massive patterns with their knitting needles. The vignettes of advertising and the expressions of the women were what she found fascinating and this is what she recreates in her work. Something random and quirky, but dipped in pathos of their particular situations – are what the models that held her interest.

She produces detailed, labour intensive works because of the way shapes and colours interact in her mind and that too is a part of her process.

Why Helen Flockhart?

Flockhart has an impressive resume of solo exhibitions, spanning both Scotland and England, as well as group shows in New York, Ontario, Rotterdam, London and Truro, Flockhart was recently awarded the Concept Fine Art Award (2016), the Royal Scottish Academy’s Maude Gemmel Hutchinson Prize (2012), and the Lyon and Turnbull Award presented by the Royal Glasgow Institute (2012).

It is now not difficult to understand her particular genre that is original and untouched by established convention. They are a blend of portrait and landscape. Flockhart is definitely given to verdant, and fantastical paeans in her paintings. To be honest being a fan on Ana Maria Pachecho she had revealed that the underlying powerful spirituality of her works were a huge impetus for her art and she is partial to the genre of British myth which is centered on pastures, mountains and themes of Divinity. And it only follows that many art critics and connoisseurs find something Blakean about her work. Her works hold an amalgam of the ancient and the modern.

Finally she states “Art doesn’t have to be large to be powerful. In fact, I heard Grayson Perry say, I think in one of his Reith Lectures, when singing the praises of small art, that, if you look at an artist’s body of work, the best is rarely that produced on a large scale.” So to that extent she has worked on creating a body of enviable work.


For more Artists handpicked by Divvya Nirula – explore the ART WATCH archive.

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