Fine Art Friday spent last Friday talking to artists and eating good food so pushed back a quick trip down south to later on the weekend and into the following week – and then, finding it hard to write properly on my phone, have had to wait to today to post. (I don’t know why I feel it necessary to apologise for not posting on a Friday, I never said it had anything to do with Fridays…) Anyway, jumping in the car by 8am Sunday morning meant we could be standing outside the door of the Bunbury Regional Art Gallery in time for their 10am opening to fit in a quick look at Helen Seiver’s exhibition Are We There Yet before continuing our journey.
I met Helen a few years ago when we were both in the same sculpture exhibition but I have loved her work from before I knew who she was, drawn to her enticing mix of textiles, found objects and metal. Helen is a maker of the first order, wrapping, stitching, knotting, welding, arranging and crafting her pieces into profound stories tinted with gentle humour and piercing sadness. If you have followed Helen’s work at all, you will probably have seen many of the works in this survey which covers some of her significant pieces from the last 15 years but every one of them demands another look especially the installation of babies bonnets made for an exhibition about infanticide, which is as heartbreaking now as it was the first time I saw it.
Helen has steel in her. All her work, even the most cushiony, blanket wrapped shape shows the illusory softness of women, a shrouded power, an adamantine core. Looking at her careful stitches I see my grandmother calmly walking for help with a sewing machine needle straight through her finger, I remember the time I hand sewed my bridal veil and pricking myself, stained the white silk with blood and tears. I look at her rescues of patchwork lino and see bright blooms of razor cuts, spills of broken dishes, sweepings of hair and dust and I shiver and think this is how you tell dark stories, with pretty curlicued, Once Upon A Time beginnings.
Most people who know us here at Castledine and Castledine know of our Sell-Art-Buy-Art policy. We instituted this many years ago as a way to pay back the universe for good fortune and to keep at least a little bit of money circulating in the art world. Having had my Cathedral recently acquired by Mandorla Art Collection I was ready to look for a new work and, discovering that Helen was selling her installations in very affordable individual pieces, we decided that we would acquire a couple. I originally looked at the babies bonnets but the very act of choosing seemed to me such a terrible thing to do that I couldn’t bring myself to separate any of them from the safety of their group. While I perfectly understand why Helen would offer them for sale individually, allowing people of limited means or space to purchase something, I have to hope that this important piece is bought as a whole and placed into a permanent collection. In the end we chose two of her Stakeholder works, which we know we can fit into a slim corner of our overcrowded collection.
The title of this exhibition chimes such lovely chords for those of us who spent our childhoods being driven down the southern highways, kicking the backs of car seats and trying to make sense of where we were in the world, so I absolutely recommend that you stop in at BRAG on your way through Bunbury if you are heading down south in the next little while. I also would recommend that if you are not heading down south for a holiday you make the two hour trip to Bunbury just to see this exhibition, have a nice lunch and leisurely drive home again, thoughtful and inspired.
Are We There Yet, Helen? Yes we are!
This exhibition is on at The Bunbury Regional Art Gallery until the 26thAugust 2018