9 December 2020 - ongoing
TJ Boulting is delighted to present a second solo show with South African artist HelenA Pritchard. The title ‘Enmeshed Worlds’ is sited from the book ‘Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures ’ by Merlin Sheldrake, which parallel Pritchard’s ideas of materials and encounters, a merger of the formal and physical with that of our memory, coincidences and connectivity.
Like the threads of the mycelium hyphae in organic matter, so the materials used in Pritchard’s work and their histories connect to the cultural stories and an ecology of the vernacular. The artist’s interest in mesh material goes beyond just the haptic textiles of embroidery fabric and insect mesh, grid-like materials that place you in the here and now of the work. Looking over these optical planes pausing in the permutations of the grid, the withdrawal from the here and now allows us an objective view of what lies beneath, the shadows cast to that of our past and cultural histories. “Grids generate a greater emotional distance - a sense of presence of the objective pervasive law.” - Amy Goldin, from her 1975 essay in Art Forum,‘Patterns, Grid and Painting’.
Pritchard utilises off-cuts and thrown away bi-products and packaging, frugal humble materials that are suggestive of a focus on things that positively impact our spiritual health. These inanimate objects have a sense of nature at their heart, Pritchard taking the discarded material and giving them meaning and a second chance by incorporating them and shaping them into another context. They translate from a capitalist short-lived destiny via the ritual of shopping, to art and making. These processes of material and spiritual connection relate back to the ideas of Hildergard von Bingen, the 12th century abbess, composer, theologian and medicinal herbalist, and her belief in the divine force of nature, or ‘Viriditas’, the translation from Latin meaning green and truth. She found a connection between human self and the growth force of the earth not only symbolic but a literal way of thinking about how we should look after our planet, a vital relationship allowing us to flourish as humans.
While reading ‘The Well-Gardened Mind: The Restorative Power of Nature’ by Sue Stuart-Smith, Pritchard came across the Scutellastra longicosta, the long-spined limpet or the duck’s foot limpet, which is found in the Western Cape of her native South Africa: “I’ve been collecting these beautiful shells with their indigo blue forever, and have them appearing in my work. I began contemplating the idea of ‘culture’ and their rituals, and the origin of words and language that have long-stemmed from gardening - to maintain one’s garden as an analogy of life. The word cultivate stems from culture, which in turn comes from the artistic practice of tending one’s garden in a creative way, a ritualistic activity.” This limpet is territorial and looks after an area of 150 square centimetres, fending off impostors, watering and cultivating the algae which it harvests. For the artist, its natural existence became an aphorism to creativity.
Incorporating everyday materials and objects of waste from construction to domestic, these perceived failures of society are examining, however monumetal or acute, attitudes towards our environment. Pritchard derides a superior culture by using material around her in a metaphoric and humorous way; ‘I’ll Last A Thousand Years’ is the title of a painting made of plastic construction building mesh, it is an ironic commentary on the fact that in art, a valued commodity, we want to know our paintings will last forever, with no need of restoration. The overhwelming human desire to leave our legacy.
The work’s titles are also often metaphors to the materials, incorporating issues of the enviroment, and cross-cultural distinctions. ‘Woman’s Work’ is a series of paintings that uses traditional embroidery fabric and gesso, stretched similarly to shaped canvases, but in a defunct way, underlining the restrictive yet integral skill of embroidery: “At school I wished to do woodwork but was told I had to choose between Home Economics and Needlework because I was a girl”. The disparate use of materials in the work also shows no hierachies; plastics, brass, gold leaf, wood, are brought together in a poetic way, highlighting their formal relations and referencing different art genres.
“I’m interested in the spontaneous creative mind. Over time I have been experimenting, inventing and learning while developing my lexicons of visual language. I produce works in series, spanning years of practice, and like this my ways of making have become apparent. Nature is a constant source of inspiration, culture and ecology. Connectivity makes us who we are.”
HelenA Pritchard graduated from the Royal College of Art MA Painting in 2011, where she received the Stanley Spencer Scholarship. She was the inaugural winner of The Evening Standard Hiscox Painting Prize 2018. Selected solo exhibitions include Hospital Club, London (2018), TJ Boulting, London (2016), SMAC Gallery, Cape Town (2013) and group shows include Anderson Gallery, Copenhagen (2018), Artissima, Turin (2014), ARCA Spain (2013), Waterside Contemporary (2012) and the Moscow Biennale (2010). Born in Durban, South Africa in 1975, she currently lives and works in London.