Helen Booth Carmarthenshire, United Kingdom
Hello, I'm a fine artist based in Wales. I graduated from Wimbledon School of Art in 1989 and have been painting for nearly 30 years. I work primarily as a painter but also make works on paper. I am a winner of a Pollock Krasner Award from NYC.
For almost thirty years, the formation and adaptation of memories have been the nucleus of Booth’s expansive archive of oil paintings, prints, etchings and installations. An enduring feature of her work throughout her career is the delicately layered networks of filamentous strokes of paint that cover her canvases. Her recent paintings explore the intangibility and ephemerality of memories through the application of paint in varying patterns and opacities. The lattice motifs are a kaleidoscopic tool to generate surface networks and are an attempt to physically represent an abyss of thought, often acting as a representation of Booth’s personal experiences with, and grasp of, love and loss.
Booth grew up in a matriarchal family, with an absence of male role models. Her work emulates the aesthetic characteristics of traditionally feminine materials and crafts practiced by herself with her female relatives during her youth, such as knitting and crocheting, while simultaneously portraying them in the traditionally male-dominated art form of painting. We Are Unravelling: Portrait of my Grandmother is a prime example of this concept. Here, Booth depicts the fragmentation of her personal family life while concurrently connecting them to her vivid memory of unravelling second hand jumpers and recycling them into new items of clothing with her Grandmother during the emotionally intense moments of her parents’ separation. The work evokes micro-cosmic insights into Booth’s personal life and the solace provided by creativity, while also celebrating the strong, powerful nature of her own female relationships.
The vehemence of relationships and memory in Helen Booth’s work is emulated in the rapport with her process and materials during creation. The ebb and flow of building up a mark simply to remove it a few days later, leaving a shadow on gesso primed canvas, acts as a physical metaphor to represent the sense of traceable absence similar to the faint mark left by a lost friend or relative. A knowledge and trust in her own process is displayed in the balanced tension of her work as layers of built up, heavy oil paint and gesso rest weightlessly on the canvas. Working on several pieces at any one time, her paintings are constantly in a state of flux up until the last layer of paint is applied, meaning that though each painting ends as a stand-alone piece, it is created while part of a group. This crucial aspect of Booth’s practice results in a body of work that not only compliments itself, but reveals more to the viewer over time.
Veneers of visual harmony and regular pattern act as a thematic thread through all of Helen Booth’s work. Attempting to physically embody the breakdown of relationships, Booth uses seemingly pristine surfaces as distractive masks to conceal sombre, dark stimuli. Coty L’aimant: Portrait of My Mother laces a rich, yellow-toned peach over a deep, blue-black that slowly creeps through the light in the foreground. Though Mustard and Custard Are Both F*cking Yellow: Portrait of My Father shares visual likeness to Booth’s Portrait of My Mother, the lines depicted are not linked, but fractured. Her tactful use of subtle visual differences hidden behind thematic titles and colours act as a tool to strengthen the theme of fragmented familiarity, by sensitively tying together her entire body of paintings and drawings.
While simultaneously contradicting and marrying what is said with what is shown, Helen Booth’s recent paintings discuss the adaptation and evolution of relationships. The culmination and embodiment of this notion is manifested in You Forgot What You Said. This contradiction between delicate beauty and aggressively bold line, of freedom and structure is what makes Helen Booth’s work very much her own. You Forgot What You Said is a visual cacophony, demanding attention with quiet power of colour and confident line. In the painting, she depicts an acceptance in the disintegration of memory in both title and work, and invites us to do the same. Using pastel, cool toned hues, Booth slowly eases us into considering and embracing age, loss and death.
Somehow firmly planted between the layers of paint is an intangible sense of temporariness and brevity. Her poetic, melodic titles paired with an expertly sensitive use of tough oil-paint produces paintings that distract us from the physical brutality of their creation and stimuli, and lead us to focus on her own (and society’s current) infatuation with beauty. This ferocious brazenness results in a climax of subtle colour and secret confidence that presents itself to the viewer in pensive stages; evoking a peculiar sense of suspension in time and in feeling.
2014 Synapse Oriel Mwldan. 2013 Drift Duckett and Jeffries Yorkshire. 2008 Tirliniau Llantarnham Grange Arts Centre Cardiff. 2008 Oriel Clwyd Art Centre, Mold, Chester. 2007 Landscapes Morgan Boyce Gallery, Marlborough. 2007 Landscapes Oriel Mwldan, Cardigan.
2017 Summer TEN Cardiff 2016 Spring Exhibition gallery-ten Cardiff 2016 Back Wall Oriel Myrddin 2015 Summer Exhibition gallery-ten Cardiff 2015 Drawing Oriel Myrddin 2015 Alternatives Are Seldom Found Arusha Gallery. Edinburgh 2015 Winter Exhibition Art Shop Abergavenny. 2014 New Year Exhibition Cadogan Contemporary. 2014 Three...[Read more]
2012 Award for Painting Pollock Krasner Foundation Inc New York 2011 Arts Council R&D Award Welsh Arts Council 2009 Oppenheim John Downes Award for Painting 2007 Oppenheim John Downes Award for Painting 2006 Arts Council Personal Development Grant, Out in the Landscape