Helen Sear

31 January - 7 March 2009

Helen Sear <i>Inseparable</i> 2007. Courtesy of the artist
Helen Sear Inseparable 2007. Courtesy of the artist

This exhibition reaches us in five parts, the four distinct works in the gallery and a publication. Tale is a collection of images and narrative response to the work that gives us the opportunity to evaluate the breadth of work produced since 1992. Rather than acting simply as an exhibition catalogue, it holds the key to her exhibition at g39, allowing us to pick up on recurring motif, departures in image and style and habitual re-visitations to the same territory.

Throughout Sear’s practice is an ongoing enquiry into beauty and nostalgia, ranging from the grand opulence of Italian interiors or a rural vista, to abandoned detritus in a wooded glade or a forgotten ornament.

On entering the gallery the ground floor houses the photographic collection Inside the view, a series that enmeshes figures and landscapes taken in different geographic locations, while collapsing the conventional photographic space between the viewer and the view. The landscape absorbs the figure, floating before and through them like a veil; like us, each head faces into the landscape, as though waiting for an appearance on the horizon, held in stasis and perpetually looking. Our positions are reversed in the cellar of the gallery which houses a screening of Projection, a video installation exploring landscape as both a site of memory and desire; with hints at its origin as a slide show, we are immersed in a series of coloured landscapes, though the camera positions itself looking back into the beam of the projector. The viewer is positioned inside the view once more in this interplay, this exchange of viewer and view.

On the first floor, Display is an overwhelming dioramic experience of an aviary covering the entire expanse of walls in a larger than life-size poster print. It began as a series of digital photographs of a taxidermy display taken in the natural history museum in Florence. Sear has manipulated the images using a highly methodical approach. The manipulation both disrupts the image, and reveals information embedded in the photograph in the same way reflections on the glass cabinets trick the eye into thinking the birds have been reanimated. The repetitive analysis and reanalysis of the surface creates a narrative breakdown where we are faced with plots and subplots to an
infinitesimal degree. Following this overload, it is a relief to step into the simple and soothing narrative of Flown. A recently empty birdcage, a recently absent bird; we watch the hypnotic rotation of the cage as it apparently rotates back and forth unaided and suspended by no apparent means. This simple defiance turns our simplistic assessment of the cage on its head and hints at much more sinister and menacing, the trace of the cage in its shadow, the object void, the inhabitant missing.

The accompanying bookwork Tale is a collection of works evaluating the breadth of work produced by Sear since 1992, and holds the key to this exhibition. It highlights the occurrence of narrative throughout her work as well as the necessary frictions and connections between adjacent images.

Tale also includes an accompanying narrative text written by David Chandler, director of Photoworks in Brighton (ISBN 978-0-9541810-7-9).

    The following Artists were in this show:
  • Helen Sear
  • This show is featured in Tale
  • Helen Sear installation view of <i>Display</i>, 2009. Courtesy of the artist
  • Helen Sear installation view of <i>Display</i>, 2009. Courtesy of the artist
  • Helen Sear, installation view of <i>Display</i>, 2009. Courtesy of the artist and g39
  • Helen Sear installation view of <i>Display</i>, 2009. Courtesy of the artist
  • Helen Sear <i>Helen in Cascina Fiorentina</i>, 2008. Courtesy of the artist
  • Helen Sear <i>Display</i>2008. Courtesy of the artist
  • Helen Sear <i>American Hat</i> 2008 Courtesy of the artist
  • Helen Sear <i>Inseparable</i> 2007. Courtesy of the artist
  • Helen Sear <i>Unnamed II</i> 2000. Courtesy of the artist