Biography of Helen Hollemans

Born in Leeds (UK) in 1964, I attended Jacob Kramer Art College in the early 80's experimenting with different techniques from screen printing to woodwork. Since early childhood I created art in a variety of media, electing to deepen my knowledge at Manchester Polytechnic through a BA(Hons) in Design History. This allowed me to learn more about a multitude of artistic disciplines as well as developing skills in glassblowing, ceramics, metalwork, textiles and print media.

On graduation, I co-founded a design company which drew on a sculptural piece I created using an exhaust pipe and scrap metal transforming it into a lamp. Our designs received critical acclaim (see photos below), and we were asked to exhibit at, and lecture on contemporary design at the Victoria and Albert Museum, UK in the mid 80's. The recession necessitated a direction shift and I went on to establish a successful corporate career which gave me the opportunity to indulge another passion, travel.

Alongside my personal travel adventures, this fed my desire to explore, and is a tenacious force in my work today. The very nature of travel fascinates me, and I still get a childlike feeling of awe when I disembark somewhere in the world. It seems quite magical that when the plane door opens you have been transported through time to the other side of the world. The sounds, smells and colours are so very different, and it is that essential essence of how that makes me feel that I try to capture in my work.

The composition and construction of my work takes inspiration from many spheres of design as homage to my studies, though the core theme amongst artists which inspire me seems to be those who are ground breakers; those who try to do something different, those who do not accept the norm. Fashion designers like Paul Poiret or Christian Dior, both in their way demanding change and a new direction.

The simplicity and playful shapes of Rodchenko and luminescence of lavish fabrics depicted by Francois Boucher transfix me. Boucher grasps the viewer inviting them to lose themselves in the depths and complexities of the painting and technical brilliance. The lightness and delicate technique are in stark contrast to Ansel Adams who so easily it seems elevates the natural landscape into fine art.

A key driving force in the direction my art has taken has been the progression of osteoarthritis in my hands. My medium of choice had been ceramics until I no longer had the strength in my hands to work the clay. Painting was a transformational discovery for me, encouraged by my husband who secretly bought materials and an easel to help me explore alternatives. I needed to look no further, and expression through canvas or paper and paint has been the channel for my passion for several years.

In a very practical sense, my osteoarthritis has even shaped how I create my work. Old credit cards are much less painful for me to clean than brushes and have proved to be a medium which helps me express my emotion on the canvas. In order to develop my concepts, I have combined my love of travel to use as inspiration for many of my abstract pieces, capturing emotions and experiences in each bold artwork.

Often expressed in a small series of works, each has a particular concept behind. Each piece tells a specific story, and part of my challenge as an artist is to tell that story in an engaging and compelling way. My extensive travels from Mauritius to Manchester, Rotterdam to Rome have endless stories to inspire my work.