First Impression: Catalogue Essay
Rachael Helmore is a Sydney based artist who explores the possibilities of drawing and mark-making. Encompassing both landscape and figure drawing, her work captures the energy and movement of human behaviour across urban sites. Her works are deceivingly simple, concealing complex relationships between the act of watching and the way people interact in public spaces. First Impression presents a selection of recent artworks created across New South Wales, Queensland and the UK.
Helmore’s works are created through rapid observational drawing and experimental printing techniques. Depicting a scene in front of her without looking at the paper, Helmore adopts and transforms the surrealist technique of ‘automatism’. Pioneered by André Masson and practised by Jean Arp, Joan Miro and André Breton, the surrealists used
automatic drawing to unveil hidden subconscious depths. Helmore’s work is concerned with revealing the fleeting movements and interactions between people and objects around her, and in doing so reveals the collective subconscious of a landscape.
The exhibition opens with Somewhere between Sydney and Eden, a series of drawings which shifts focus from depicting movement around her to capturing images of the landscape as she moves through it. on a car trip from Sydney to Eden, the works present a sense of speed and the passing of time as signifiers of the urban - traffic lights, cars, congestion – are gradually replaced by tropes of the rural - trees, cows, telephone poles.
There is a degree of voyeurism at play in Helmore’s figure works as the pen captures immediately that which the eye sees. This is embodied in The results of seven hours standing, which documents the movement of visitors through the galleries at the Museum of Contemporary Art where Helmore works as a Host. The performative aspect of her work becomes evident when viewing the works chronologically: the endurance of standing for seven hours is reflected as the drawing style becomes progressively looser and more gestural. The complexity of these works lie in the way visitors occupy space in a constant flow. As they observe the artworks, she in turn observes them.
Helmore trained at the College of Fine Arts, UNSW in Printmaking. Since her degree, Helmore has explored ways to intersect her interest in automatic drawing with the much more technical and meticulous printmaking process. Geraldton Wax and Somewhere in QLD see Helmore printing linocuts without the use of a printing press, instead using a kitchen spoon. Helmore embraces the possibility of chance and error as the nature of placing ink to paper leaves permanent impressions. This unselfconscious process generates new, perhaps more authentic encounters with the everyday.
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