Unaffected and charm are words that conjure images of the past. It’s a simplistic picture we grasp for and one the commercial world is all too willing to encourage with enticing magazines showing rambling country homes decorated with checked tablecloths awash with glorious homemade cakes and the odd scone with jam and cream. Those were the days of ample time and the luxury of sparsely populated roads. Ah yes! Let’s pretend and yearn for yesteryear…
Helene Leane’s first solo exhibition as a represented artist at Gallery 139 allows us to observe the inspiration of this bygone era in her richly textured body of work. Helene was initially motivated by Meroogal Women’s Art Prize which asks for female artists across NSW to delve into the past and summon a response to the historic Meroogal House in Nowra. Accepting this challenge allowed her to explore ideas and materials which eventually culminated in her work being selected for the prize in late 2014. Enthused by this beautiful house in Meroogal, Helene kept the creative endeavour going though ventured closer to home for her source of inspiration. For this exhibition “Lino & Lace” Miss Porter’s House therefore became her muse.
For those unaware of the existence of Miss Porter’s House, it’s a quaint little cottage in King St worthy of exploration. It allows a glimpse into the lives of two women who lived in an era prior to perpetual home renovating and the constant desire for new consumables. And that in itself lets history reveal itself. Old linoleum ambles unrestrained throughout and lace decorates tirelessly as the humble doily. Helene has taken these outdated materials and renewed our acquaintance with them through her art.
Most of us are familiar with Helene’s monotype prints. They are a wonderful layering of shape, texture and tone. Her prints in this exhibition build on her knowledge of this medium and attractively depict the quality of lino, overlaying it with pattern. This patterned affect also occurs in the acrylic paintings where lace doilies are stamped into swathes of paint and beeswax. Also adopted very successfully in this show is a photo transfer technique. Manipulation of the photograph is achieved through a building up of colour and surface via acrylic paint. This delivers a fanciful reality that sneakily entices us into those desired realms of the past.
Helene’s first solo show with Ahn Wells' Gallery 139 is an attractive exploration of an era we will always adore because of its feminine beauty and perceived simplicity. An unaffected charm is certainly displayed in this exhibition!
Ah now time for a cup of tea and a scone with jam and cream. But better put that load of wet washing through the mangle first.