A short while ago, we announced local artist Helen Moore as the winner of our People’s Choice Award which ran throughout the duration of our first Winter Open Exhibition. As a result of this, she was awarded a solo show at our Quatre Bras Gallery.
We caught up with Helen and had a chat about the inspiration behind her work.
Art, drawing, painting, making, creating is just something I have always done as far as I can remember. Painting and writing were the only things I was interested in at school so the natural progression was to go to art college. It was at art college amongst the gritty back drop of industrial Bradford where I was able to actually think about art, being given the chance to see amazing exhibitions, sitting in dark rooms endlessly watching video art installations, I became aware of the importance and need for art and the endless possibilities. Then of course I entered the real world and had to get a job. A whole list of jobs, a fair amount of travel, a drastic move north for a surfer, add ten years, one daughter and a few grey hairs, the only constant in my life has been painting, sneaking time in my studio, whether that be the corner of a backroom or a shed outside, and now I am finally getting back there again.
I have done my fair share of travelling, but as far as I am concerned it has hard to beat the highland landscape. The variety of the landscape as you drive around the highlands is ridiculous as you go from one extreme to the other in minutes, extremes in weather and in light as well as the landscape itself. I have spent a lot of time on the west coast as my family live on the beautiful Isle of Mull but I found there was something different about the north highlands. It moves away from the pretty colourful scenes of the highlands. It combines beauty and wildness with something more familiar to me coming from West Yorkshire, something more industrial, more grey, more real, less pretty. The skies are vast and the atmosphere in the fast-changing light is incredible but real life is evident, people work, machinery is used and left to rust, and plastic bags get blown onto barbed wire fences. That’s just what happens. The dramatic moody Caithness skies behind these scenes offer an almost cinematic experience which to me cannot help but inspire
As I have said it is the everyday reality of life that fascinates me, how repetitive actions of the day to day appear against the backdrop of these famous skies. This piece currently represents the day to day for me and my reality. I walk in Dunnet Forest almost daily. For me, with a collie dog and an adventurous 3 year old daughter this is currently our playground. Everyday I get out of my car and look at that sky from Dunnet forest car park and watch how it changes and see if I can predict what the weather will do for the next hour. There is something about how the light moves in across the rain clouds and the sand dunes that I couldn’t help but try to paint. It is basically a snapshot of my current life.
When I decide I want to try to paint something, all I want to do is to try to paint the feeling I had, good or bad, when I looked at that shed, that sky or that fence at that moment. I spend quite a lot of time outside and often feel the emptiness, the loneliness of this landscape. My paintings are essentially snapshots of the banal day to day. They are not always of specific places. Sometimes I take a sky, a moment, and use it with other memories, sheds, buildings, very occasionally figures, and piece them together like a scene against a backdrop but the whole intention is to try to create that moment amongst this landscape which is not always inviting in its bleakness. If any of that comes through, ever, to the viewer I would be happy.
My favourite part of the making process is probably day two of a painting. After the daunting prospect of nothing going the way I planned when I begin, the point when I give up on that entirely and get completely stuck in. I am constantly surprised by how physically exhausting I find painting. In the way my body tenses in most certainly the wrong ways when I am fully concentrating and fully focused for hours at a time is probably not good for me but when things go right it’s pretty exciting. The part I hate is the finishing. At this point in my life I have still not learnt the ability to finish a painting. I take a long time over my paintings, way too long, and they are never actually finished. If they stay in my studio or even in my house for too long I go back to them, change things, tweak things, occasionally ruin things but sometimes right things. If you look closely at the images in the publicity for this exhibition you will see I have changed a few of these even since the photographs were taken. I don’t have the ability to ever view them as finished.