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Helen Macfarlane

Helen Macfarlane has been working in and around the colourful fields of art, culture, language and communication all her life. Her artistic development has been happily and heavily influenced by her intense involvement in international art and culture in Austria, where she has worked in the fields of language and communication and also in art, theatre and publishing. In addition, she has frequently been involved in organising, speaking at and photographically and digitally documenting several art shows and events .

Much of her own art work, however, has been developed during stays in Germany, Spain, Slovenia, Cyprus and the UK although the 90’s series of work was done mainly in the UK and in Austria. She is now developing a  series of work inspired by her new experiences of love, life and color in and around Palm Springs, California.

Although Helen works a lot with collage and oil crayon, taking snatches of human and animal interaction from real life, the newspapers, images from the television and transforming her own sketches and notes into new dialogue on paper, there is also a considerable photographic influence involved in the development of her work. Many of the moments, people and animals are captured spontaneously on the camera of her mobile phone (which she happily refers to as “handy camera” in English too) a sort of digital lomo effect which she then prints and uses to make new stories, narratives and interactions, changing and alienating the identities, situations and encounters. This is also a reason why she has developed a passion for painting portraits.

Between 2009 – 2011, she re-explored the ins and outs of sheep, goat, chicken and goose life in a portrait project of the 39 strong resident flock and other animals who live with Hilal Sezgin in Lower Saxony, Germany. These have been shown in the surrounding barns, manor (see blog Sept 2010), an Austrian 18th Century brewery (2011)  and are now spreading hooves and wings and to be shown in locations farther afield from their home meadows as Helen explores new terrain in the USA.

From her experiences in and around the deserts of Palm Springs CA, the woods and mountains of Upper Austria and the Island of Cyprus with its seas and mountainous regions, the Red Thread Series was developed, in 2012  expanding the series of sheep goat horses hens and geese to include the mouflon and animals native to the desert and wood regions of the above mentioned locations.  To begin with the subjects were endangered in all areas however, the more the issue of endangered animals was addressed, the more every animal seemed to fit into the category. The red thread is endless. A collection of primate paintings based on the photography of the artist Siouxzan Perry has been added to the Red Thread series in this exhibition now being shown at Katie Sabry’s studio in Cyprus.

Helen has dug deeply into the complexities of language and communication, celebrating her own passion for the endless possibilities of language and exploring the loneliness which can be felt during a dialogue, whether in your own language or a learned language, or through social codes and meta-messages. She is constantly confronted in all walks of her life with trying to transport messages of all kinds and attempts to process this visually, balancing on the borders between joy and despair, knowing that communication processes can go terribly wrong. To quote Popper, the more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate….

Helen asks if it is any easier to communicate through icons and images?