Through a condensed process of polychromatic forms and shapes, Helen Beard‘s paintings employ an abundance of images and colours providing a powerful visual experience. Layering her canvases with body images that further separate into colourful smaller parts – for instance, each body part identifies by a different colour, Beard seems to enhance geometric shapes within the same pictorial territory on canvas. Figurative compositions, sexually derived patterns drawn from pornographic sources and solid areas of dynamic colours are set against abstract and complex arrangements. The artist’s main body of work encourages the viewer to freely engage with the human body, although it mainly stays faceless; Beard’s imagery develops a constant dialogue with the sexual desire and female viewpoint echoing the excitement for erotic fantasies without perplexing boundaries or other negative feelings of embarrassment. Therefore, needless to be apologetic about any visual or aesthetic entanglements, the female artist reveals an expressive painterly language, which impressively brings up important notions of body positivity.
Words: Yannis Kostarias
In Big Night In, 2017, or Blue Valentine, 2017, for example, Beard puts an emphasis on erect penises penetrating female vaginas depicted with a remarkable transparency in free-flowing brushstrokes and a contemporary lexicon of polychromatic geometries fully embedded with a profusion of energy. Likewise, in Wet Wednesday, 2017, Beard examines a similar composition of shapes and multicoloured focus in erotic experiences. Characterised by vivid colours, sensual movements and visual rhythms, her figurative work merges a provocative artistry of concepts and forms. Beard is a multifaceted artist, while her art practice also includes works of needlepoint, sculptures and collages. Her colourful creations are held in an orgasmic state of virtuosity balanced between a visually strong and intelligent structure and simplicity.
Although it can become receptive to promiscuous advances or interpretations, her paintings seem, somehow, to be able to allure the viewer within an overwhelming blast of images, ideas and colours. Ignoring inconsiderate perceptions, Beard’s artwork manages to celebrate the sexual stimulation as it is freshly seen by the eyes and mind of a modern female artist. In additions, Beard’s work showcases new ways of approaching gender topics, raising questions about body politics and inviting the viewers to enjoy sex through a woman’s perspective. In regards to the erotic fantasy and psychology, the artist’s sentiments come to the front depicting dominant female figures over the male; in The Big Dipper, 2017, the artist vigorously illustrates a cock enveloped by a voluptuous rear which dominates the surface of the canvas, while in the Each Peach Pear Plum, 2017, a generous depiction of a large female body riding a penis highlights the artist’s uncompromising attitude to declare the protagonist of this erotic fantasy.
Born in Birmingham, UK, in 1975, the British artist lives and works in Brighton, UK. In 1992, Beard graduated from Bournemouth and Poole college of Art and Design. Besides being a painter, Beard also worked as a stylist and art director in the film industry for fifteen years. The artist has exhibited her work at the We Are Cuts, London, the Paul Stolper gallery, London, as well as in the group exhibition “Simulation/Skin” at the Newport Street gallery. Curated by Damien Hirst, her current group exhibition, True Colours, is taking place at Newport Street gallery in London until September 9, 2018.
In her interview with Art Verge, Helen Beard shares her approach on her joyfully creative world and other art issues, while providing some very interesting insights about her daily life. Check it out!
Art Verge: Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
Helen Beard: I make small studies on board where I work out the drawing and the colour before enlarging them on to canvas. It allows me to keep the vibrancy of the paint if it is only one or two layers.
AV: How would you define your work in few words (ideally in 3 words)?
HB: Polychromatic, Thrilling, Vivid.
AV: Can you name any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?
HB: So many women at the moment: Louise Bourgeois, Annette Messager , Sophie Calle, Etel Adnan, Sonia Delaunay, Sarah Lucas, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Beatriz Milhazes I could go on…..
AV: Creating a new painting can be a solitary process. If this applies to you, when you concentrate on a new artwork does it affect your social life at all?
HB: I try not to let it, but there are not enough hours in the day.
AV: How do you know when an artwork is finished?
HB: When the colours are shouting.
AV: What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space like, and how does it affect your process?
HB: Too small! I am making such large works that getting them all in is proving difficult. I like to work on 5 or 6 paintings at a time and wall space is a challenge.
AV: Which exhibition did you visit last?
HB: Tomma Abts at the Serpentine gallery and the Christo in Serpentine Lake.
AV: What do you hope audiences will take from your work?
HB: Abundant love and excitement.
AV: What does your mum think about your art?
HB: Surprisingly , she is so proud she has arranged a day trip to Newport Street Gallery with her friends from Birmingham.
AV: Are you a morning person or a night owl?
HB: Night owl, it takes me a while to get going in the morning.
AV: Is the glass half empty or half full?
HB: Half full at the moment.
AV: Which are your plans for the near future?
HB: I have quite a few painting commissions, one of which is for an utterly amazing collector, who I can’t name but, I am very proud that my paintings will be in his collection. I have so many ideas, in collage, needlepoint and sculpture too but struggling to find the time to do everything.
© Image courtesy Newport Street gallery