Written By Devin Hardy & Helen Durant
HELEN DURANT, The Decision, 2022
Acrylic on Canvas, 36” x 48”
This exhibition features new work by Helen Durant. Known for her mixed media paintings of wildlife, her relationship with the natural world informs her practice. Durant’s portrayal of animals captures the feeling of a chance encounter in the wild, a fleeting moment of recognition between a person and a fellow creature of this planet.
'Animalis', from the Latin 'anima', is the adjectival version meaning “having breath or soul" - an apt title for this show as Durant breathes life and soul into her portraits. These paintings create a space for contemplation where we can consider the sentience of the other inhabitants of earth and reflect on the qualities that make us more alike than we sometimes acknowledge. The rich backdrops provide an ethereal abstract ‘landscape’ that allows the viewer to access the inner world of the subject. This peaceful atmosphere offers a contrast to the chaos of the modern world and allows us to step back for moment from our hectic daily lives.
At first glance, my new collection of paintings would seem to be a complete departure from past work. In my eyes, they are simply the next step in a never-ending progression of attempting to stretch the boundaries of representational renderings. I strive to give my subjects life, and to create imagery that is both recognizable and also is relatable on a deeper level. It is the marriage of the spirit of my process and the spirits of my subjects.
Yes, I am taking a risk, but life this past year has handed me a plate full of risks to be navigated. In this spirit, I have drawn and broken lines, smeared images, painted out and over perfectly acceptable compositions and visual narrations, and used unfamiliar color palettes, all in the name of discovery.
Some will speak more clearly than others. Some will evoke more feeling and challenge the imagination, yet they all have a common thread. The struggle, the creation and the obliteration, informs each piece and gives it its own unique character.
While this process has been exploratory, all of the new works emerged from honest investigation and my experience in the realms to which this process led me.