Art First Projects
21 November – 20 December, 2013
In Michael Petry’s newly published book titled Nature Morte, he explores how contemporary practitioners from all over the globe are revisiting the major motifs of the still life, translating them into the modern world. His entry for Helena Goldwater points out that her work may look as if it has come from the pages of some nineteenth century compendium of exotic plant species. But he notes also that its precise and scientific observation is in fact completely at odds with its subject, for the flowers and plants she depicts are reinvented by her imagination.
At first glance Goldwater’s works are delicate and obsessive watercolours of plant forms, or studies of the natural world. Extravagant, tantalizing and intense, their attention to detail appears to record nature as a perfectly evolved endeavour. On closer reading they reveal perverted and hybridised forms, sometimes inferring human anatomy and its entrails, and may invite sexually charged readings. They begin to question representations of truth within the natural order of things, and even celebrate disorder, offering the unidentifiable, the in-between, or various states of being. This allows for humorous qualities, occasionally with a sinister edge, but otherwise redolent with joy.
The extraordinary fine detail of the almost invisible brushwork, like the art of a miniaturist, encourages the viewer to come up close to each work, in this way experiencing an intimacy similar to the artist’s own proximity during the process of painting. A direct connection with the audience is desired, attempting to bring an immediate exchange between viewer and maker, which offers a closer communication.
The images from the new Homage to Bosch series resemble living beings hovering on the paper in the emptiness of surrounding space, performing some unknown visual dance to enchant the eye. It is as though the works act as a mysterious, animated transmitter between the maker and the recipient.
Goldwater has been making performance art since 1989 and paintings since 2003. A concern with the performative in her paintings is evident and in both practices she is also interested in a devotion to craft. She often makes performances that last many hours and her paintings can take months to make – this dedication to the process is a way of exploring how concepts can be developed over time to inhabit something ‘other’ than the human realm, transforming the everyday into a spiritual act. In her paintings, water and paint are the alchemical materials.
Helena Goldwater graduated from Goldsmith’s Fine Art in 1989 and the Slade School of Art Fine Art (Media) in 1992 and is currently Senior Lecturer in Drama at De Montfort University.
She has been nominated twice for the Paul Hamlyn Awards for Visual Artists. Her work has been shown extensively including at Tate Liverpool, Newlyn Art Gallery, Spacex, The Drawing Room and the 1st International Performance Art Week, Venice. This is her first solo exhibition at Art First.