HELEN BOOTH

CH.89: If you were to categorize or describe the style of your artwork, what would it be and why?
HB: My work is abstract and firmly rooted in my personal response to the landscape. I work with a very limited palette and I build up and strip back layers to create paintings that often have repeated loose patterns across the surface. I also prefer to work in more traditional mediums – gesso and oil are my favourites because they allow a pause in the creation of the work. There is nothing better than being surprised by work after time and gravity have worked their magic on the surface.

CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

HB: I think the immediate answer would be Nature, especially in Winter. I love the light in colder climates. This time last year I was the Artist in Residence at the Hafnarborg Arts & Culture Centre in Reykjavik and it was witnessing the power of this particular landscape that led to this new body of work . I am also very interested in the cyclical patterns in nature – both human and geographical.

CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new project/ piece of artwork?

HB: I always work on several pieces at the same time – so my studio isn’t ever empty or decked with a plethora of fresh stretched canvas for a new project. Each piece feeds the next piece – it’s like a long conversation that evolves. I have an etching press in my studio that I use to create monoprints and I often punctuate my process by creating works on paper. These works hone my practice and are a quick way to get my ideas down. Like many artists I am concerned primarily with being and not being and the brevity of the human condition. I am currently obsessing with the dot – which can represent many things in my work; a punctuation mark, a scar, a star a birth and a death.

CH.89: Is there anything in particular that you would want people to take from your artwork?

HB: I would love my work to connect with the audience on a fundamental level. I want the work to offer a sense of calm that allows the viewer to pause. I paint in a very intuitive manner; I never really know what a painting is going to look like until its finished and only then when I feel that the painting connects with me on a very emotional level. I would like to think that my work evokes the same kind of feelings with the people that see the work.

CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about your lifestyle as an artist and what that is like?

HB: I moved from London in 1996 to an old woollen mill in a very rural part of South West Wales in the UK. I have a studio space in the old dying rooms – the space has incredible light and also good-sized walls. I’m in my studio every day making work. I realize that I am very fortunate to have such a wonderful studio to work in and I never take the space for granted. I underwent quite a serious surgery a couple of years ago and it’s made me even more determined to make the most out of every day in the studio. Who knows what’s round the corner?

CH.89: When starting out an artistic task, do you think it is better to have a particular direction/set plan guiding your way? Or, is it better to act on impulse and go from there?

HB: Impulse and Emotion definitely. I can’t work within the confines of a plan – I just don’t create that way.

CH.89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as an artist thus far?

HB: To be resilient.

CH.89: Do you regard personal style & taste to be of highest importance?

HB: Not at all.

CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist?

HB: To trust your instinct and to plough through with an idea or way of working even if it’s like banging your head against the wall.

CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist?

HB: Freedom to succeed and to fail

CH.89: Is there anyone in particular, any artist’s that inspire you in any way?

HB: I love so many! I often refer back to works by Cy Twombly and Agnes Martin but there are so many really exciting living artists making wonderful abstract works today. At the moment I’m finding the constructed paintings by Otis Jones a real joy and I adore the surface and scale of works by Julie Mehretu. I’m also drawn to the textured constructed textiles of Lawrence Calver and the monochromatic woven work by Marie Hazard. Oh, and Rachel Howard – Gorgeous!

CH.89: What do you think of technology in terms of being a useful tool for artists today?

HB: I think using the word tool is so important because that’s all it is. Using Social Media is a great way to put your work out there and to create conversations with people about the work from all over the world. The Artist Support Pledge, created in response to the pandemic, has been a brilliant platform for meeting collectors and selling smaller works on paper for example – and this could never have happened without embracing the technology.

CH.89: Do you think being an artist allows you to view the world differently from those who don’t follow creative paths?

HB: Yes, I think so. But whether creative or not the impact of the arts leaves its mark everywhere.

CH.89: Do you enjoy traveling? If so, do you have a favorite city?

HB: I have a fear of flying so I don’t travel that much anymore. However last year, spending time in Iceland has ignited a passion to visit more places. If I have to choose a favorite city though, at the moment it would definitely be Reykjavik in the deepest Winter. It’s just fabulous.

CH.89: Do you have a favorite author or book?

HB: I talk a lot about A Woman in the Polar Night by Christiane Ritter. I’ve just finished reading it for the third time. It’s an autobiographical book about an Austrian woman who joined her husband for a year in the remote Artic island of Spitsbergen in 1938. It’s a truly inspiring read – her descriptive passages of the landscape are just so evocative and it really makes me want to visit. Such bravery in isolation. I’m just about to start reading An Ode to Darkness by Sigri Sandberg, a book that explores our relationship with the dark in both a philosophical and emotional way. I think I’m drawn to this notion of the extreme, which is reflected in my work in many ways. The limited palette and the honed mark making is my form of extremism.

CH.89: Any future goals or plans for your artwork?

HB: I have quite a few exhibitions planned for this year, although a few are being pushed because of the pandemic, which is stressful. I’m constantly pushing myself to make better work and I’m hoping to create some very large pieces this year for an exhibition in 2022 in Sweden. I really want to explore making larger more robust marks and this can only really be achieved by scaling up.

CH.89: What does being an artist mean to you?

HB: I’ve always had busy hands. As a child I was constantly making things – being an artist has allowed me to continue to make things in response to what I think is important. Painting is a way in which I choose to offer my take on the world.

CH.89: What’s the last song you listened to?

HB: I know it probably sounds odd – but I rarely listen to music. I’m not sure why. But I do listen to a lot of audiobooks, podcasts and lectures. They play all day in my studio and I can’t sleep without a book playing at night. The last podcast I listened to was The Great Women Artists podcast about Hilma Af Klint with Katy Hessel and Tracey Bashkoff – A very inspiring listen.

CH.89: Any last words on the aesthetic of your artwork?

HB: Meditative & Soulful.

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