HelenA Pritchard at 1961 Projects: 2

 

For her first showcase in Singapore, HelenA Pritchard worked with 1961 Projects on an exhibition titled 2. We caught the London-based South African artist whilst she was in town, and she told us about her works, practice and influences whilst growing up.

HelenA Pritchard (b.1975, Durban, South Africa) lives and works in London, UK. She completed her MA in Painting at the Royal College of Art in 2011 and received the Stanley Spencer Scholarship. In 2017, she won the inaugural Evening Standard Hiscox Painting Prize. Her recent solo exhibitions include Not the Actual Size, Hospital Club, London (2018), Show, Studio, London (2017), Encounters, TJ Boulting, London (2016).

 

On Her Works

 

"Because I work with a lot of found materials, it allows me to have a broader trajectory, really.
Sometimes the object that I find pushes the work towards a particular genre, so it can be quite an organic way of working."

 
  Two Peachy , HelenA Pritchard 2017

Two Peachy, HelenA Pritchard
2017

"These pieces are made on found frames, and are a commentary on packaging and consumerism. The gloss paint was also found. I just painted 27 layers of this paint, and it wasn't that I set out to paint 27 layers, but I just worked on it until it was finished. It then becomes almost like this skin — a bodily finish.

There's a lot of duality in this work. It looks like a human body, or a car body, and it gains a real tautness from having the paint dry down on it. I painted it on cotton duck, and because I used oil paint, it then gets tighter and tighter, to look, possibly, like a moulded object."

"I've used cement in this piece, which is so closely associated with building and construction, on embroidery fabric. There are these push and pulls [in this piece] again, that I'm quite interested in.

Growing up in South Africa, it was a lot about what women could do. Women were doing embroidery, women were teachers, women were nurses and things like that. When I grew up, my mother was a nurse. The memory and the identity does not necessarily need to be known, but I used to play with all of these sorts of [materials]."

  Composition 33  (L) and  Composition 31  (R), HelenA Pritchard 2018, Installation View

Composition 33 (L) and Composition 31 (R), HelenA Pritchard
2018, Installation View

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Untitled Diptych, HelenA Pritchard
2016

"This is bee's pigment painted first, then I've followed it up with bees wax and damar resin crystals that I've melted down.
  
[I'm interested in] these old ways of painting, and in reducing them down to just their materiality. What I like about the materiality of things is that they come with their own tone, and their own palette."

 

"I'm very experimental with my work, and the experiment is everything.

Sometimes I stumble upon something that I'm interested in, so I draw on that and pull things out from that.  There's still freedom within works that sit within a series too, so that's quite good when you're expanding on things.

I like all of these everyday materials that we kind of overlook as well."

 
 

On Being Inspired

 

"A lot of my work takes from local culture and everyday things. These objects are ignobled, and given a higher status, by being cast in a different material and bringing them into art.

I remember having these pictures on our wall being hung along a piece of velvet ribbon. I always found them so strangely curious. They'd even have a bit of pottery on, with a bit of dried flowers. In a way, I think that [informs my way of] hanging things."

 
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"I really like the colours of things and buildings here in Singapore. It's very Art Deco. I'd go to different cities and places and you'd see that there's a tonal difference between the colours used. It's possibly because of differences in light, but it's been fascinating. I see some sculptures coming up from here as well!"

 
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Some things are made, then broken down, then remade, or even become a part of another work over time.
 

"I often document things as I'm going, and when I look back, I sometimes ask myself why I [retouched] something. Why didn't I just leave it as it was? I do question myself about the simplicity of things. When I think about how some works happen way too easily, those were the good ones. Because it's been happening here (motions to the head) before.
  
I like going back to things, especially if then, it didn't feel right. Maybe later it'll feel right. I also don't want to over produce things. So breaking things down and having them become a part of something else is part of [the process]. Everything is connected, and very literally too."

 
 

On Modernism, and Growing Up in Africa

"Modernism in Africa is not ever really mentioned, but we have this wonderful artist that I really love, Esther Mahlangu. She's just had a show in Johannesburg with Yoko Ono, and she's obviously very famous.
  
Her paintings started off on buildings and walls, and functioned almost like the writing on the wall, but in block colours and modern shapes. She's been working for a long time, but that part of modernism is not really documented in Africa. I think that people tend to forget women and Africa quite a bit, even though it's having its heyday now, there's still no conversation between the Modernist sculptors and [their female African counterparts]."

  Abstract , Esther Mahlangu 2014

Abstract, Esther Mahlangu
2014

Uphiso, Nesta Nala


c. 1980

There's this other artist I like who makes terracotta pots, Nesta Nala.

The same thing — they need to be written into history as, if not part of then precursors to, [a modernist movement]. Nala's family were making pots, same as the Mahlangu with the paintings of the Ndebele.

 

"Growing up in South Africa, we didn't have any contemporary art galleries, so what I was looking at was everyday culture. There also wasn't any Internet for awhile.

I've been living in Europe for about twenty years now. But looking back on my work is a way of learning, and pushing myself, by thinking about what it references or who it reminds me of. I find connections in many things, and I think that is what my work is, essentially, about."

"The intention probably comes after as a way of learning and studying, and that's quite interesting for me. I like writing about my work, and finding the most obscure parts of it — be it historical or contextual.

As I'm making the work, I'm projecting thoughts and ideas onto the work as well. It's a kind of game as well.

I see everything as connected. Everything is part of my art. My art is my life."

 
 
My strongest ties are to the way I make things, and think that’s 100% from [growing up in] Africa.

The colours I use are inspired by different places, but things like the contrasts between texture and colours [that I use] take from the nature I’ve seen and the cities I’ve been to.
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HelenA Pritchard: 2 is now open at 1961 Projects.
The exhibition will run until 22 September 2018.
For more information regarding the exhibition, visit 1961 Project's Facebook page.