“The experiment is everything”: HelenA Pritchard at 1961 Projects
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).
“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. Because I used oil paint, it gets tighter and tighter and looks like a moulded object.”
“I've used cement in this piece, which is closely associated with building and construction, on embroidery fabric. There are these push and pulls [in this piece] that I'm quite interested in.”
“Growing up in South Africa, it was a lot about what women could and could not do. Women did embroidery, women were teachers, and women were nurses. My mother was a nurse, so I used to play with all sorts of materials."
“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."
“I really like the colours here in Singapore. It's very Art Deco.
I'd go to different cities and places and 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."
“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].
“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."
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.