Helen Britton | Wildstone
October 8 – November 13, 2016
limited edition catalogue available
book signing and lecture at Brooklyn Metal Works, October 21, 7pm
Helen Britton is a traveler and collector, forever gathering tangible bits of experience and memories as she moves through the world. Her new body of work traces these bits to Idar-Oberstein, a German town once world famous for its gemstones and jewelry industry. Idar was a place of global exchange, where raw stones came to be processed and where small factories sent off finished jewelry to the Victorian marketplace. This history has long fascinated Britton and while an artist-in-residence of the Jakob Bengel Foundation in the autumn of 2014, she delved deep into the remnants of this once bustling town and followed the fading paths of stones from her native Australia to Idar and back again.Britton’s work physically joins the stones she has saved, carried, and collected from her native Australia to Idar-Obertein, and to all the places in between. Carefully piecing together these materials, Britton builds a connection between disparate threads and begins to tell a new story.“[Britton] binds together distant lands, oceans, shipyards, industries, people and hundreds, sometimes thousands of years,” writes gallery owner Sienna Patti. Yet, “One isn’t required to understand the backstory to each stone, every pattern or part, in order to be drawn into the work, to want hold it close to the skin, to turn it around and hold it to the light.”
There is a constructivist bent in the work of Helen Britton. Like the modernist dictum of “truth to materials”, Britton believes that materials have specific capacities and therefore specific uses, and that the material dictates the form the artwork takes. It is her search for this truth that has driven her most recent body of work, Wildstone. But it is also what has led her away from a traditional constructivist inquiry. For Britton, the veracity is found in the anthropological narrative of the material: the journey it has taken before it arrived in her hands; the chronicle created by human touch and interaction that forms the tale. If every material, each stone, carries a story through time, then Britton’s task is an awesome one. The trajectory of the material draws the map. This map binds together distant lands, oceans, shipyards, industries, people, and hundreds or some- times thousands of years. “The creation of a single world comes from a huge number of fragments and chaos,” says film- maker and storyteller Hayao Miyazaki. In Britton’s jewelry, the chaos stops for a moment as the fragments are given form.
Painter Helen Frankenthaler wrote of her Color Field works that “A good picture looks as if it’s happened at once.” And so it is with the jewelry in Wildstone. It isn’t necessary to understand the backstory to each stone, every pattern or part, in order to be drawn into the work, to want to hold it close to the skin, to turn it around and hold it to the light. The pieces are immediate. Large flat stones are naked and left alive, revealing in their own natural beauty. Collages of shapes and colors are set in forms that take their cue from the photo- graphic essay contained in this book — softened, one imagines, by the same waves that some of the stones rode in on.
Helen Britton is a storyteller and it is only fItting that she has followed the myths of these stones. Her modes of assemblage are abstract and allegorical, yet the humanity behind the chosen materials is concrete and intensely physical. It is in the marrying of these things that she creates her poetry, her prose, and her epic. We are fortunate enough to be here for that moment. Sienna Patti, 2016 excerpt from Wildstone catalogue
Helen Britton completed a Master of Fine Arts by research at Curtin University, Western Australia in 1999, which included guest studies at the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, the Sandberg Institute, Amsterdam, and San Diego State University, California. In 1999 she returned to Munich to complete postgraduate study at the Academy of Fine Arts. In 2002 she established her workshop in Munich with David Bielander and Yutaca Minegishi. Her work is held in the National Gallery of Australia, The Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, The Schmuck Museum Pforzheim, The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Boston Museum of Fine Art, The Metropolitan Museum, New York, The Hermitage, St Petersburg, The Victoria and Albert Museum, London among others. In 2005 Helen was awarded the Herbert Hofmann prize for excellence in contemporary jewellery and in 2006 the state prize of Bavaria for craftsmanship. In March of 2011 Helen Drutt-English launched a new catalogue of Helen Britton’s work in Munich. In 2013 at the invitation of The Neue Sammlung, Munich, an overview of 20 years of Helen’s work was shown as a solo exhibition in the Neues Museum, Nürnberg, Germany. In 2013 Britton was awarded the Förderpreis of the city of Munich, and in 2014 was artist in residence at Villa Bengel in Idar-Oberstein. In 2015 Helen Britton was invited by Ingo Maurer to make a solo exhibition of her “Industrial” series of jewellery and drawings in his showrooms in Munich, and was Artist in Residence at the invitation of Janet Homes a Court at Vasse Felix in Western Australia. In 2017 Helen has been invited by The Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, UWA, Western Australia to make a complete overview of her practice in conjunction with the Festival of Perth.
Accompanying the exhibition is a 60 page hardcover catalogue with images of the works and a photographic essay from the artist. With two essays, one from writer and historian Julia Wild and the other from artist, Helen Britton the book is a limited edition of 250.
Available October 10, 2016