120 x 150 cm, household paint and oil on canvas, 2016
In her paintings Helen Ballardie explores ideas around identity and perception, truth and fiction. She displaces characters from their usual environments and transposes them into new ones, and constructs ‘memories’ from a variety of disparate images.
The duplicated character that features in her Half Life series is from the Dulwich Picture Gallery, Peter Lely’s ‘A Boy as a Shepherd’. To the artist he seems not only to be posing as a shepherd but, for that time, to be mentally living as one, and therefore perhaps depicting some sort of truth. Helen has always been interested in the power of dressing up and how it affects ones being. She uses the boy pretending to be a shepherd to represent some polished and exaggerated ‘memories’ in some other scenarios.
Often the titles of her work play a part in this idea of truth and fiction, appearance and reality. For example, in ‘Christmas at Underwood Road 1985 with Bobby Novac’, when the artist lived in Underwood Road in Baltimore, she used to get a lot of post for the previous owners who were called Novac, and she was always intrigued to know who the Novacs were and imagined that they might be important or famous, and so she made a fictionalised character called Bobby Novac, who is better at everything and is always one step ahead, a young hero. The duplicated characters in the paintings usually, because of their painting (she tries to paint them the same), turn out to be one more handsome or stronger or more confident than the other. This is a perceived phenomenon which somehow becomes confirmed, and therefore characters are born and believed.
Helen maps out her ideas on each canvas using oil for its versatility but also uses a variety of other mediums including Inks, Household Paint, Felt Tip Pen, Pencil, Acrylics and Collage.
Helen studied Fine Art Painting at the Kent Institute of Art & Design, Canterbury & won the Dulwich Picture Gallery’s Open Exhibition in 2014.
Read more about Helen’s work, her background, awards and previous exhibitions.
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