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Helen Sears’ retrospective at Zelda Cheatle Gallery

Reconstructing the environment

Zelda Cheatle, fine photograph dealer, launches a mini-retrospective of artist Helen Sears, “Moments apart,” at her bijou Covent Garden gallery (until 29 June). Sears, in conversation with The Art Newspaper, states her current objective as an attempt “to reconstruct the global environment.” Earlier, she spoke of “trying to articulate a landscape that might be identified with the feminine.”

Art or photography? That old chestnut now seems as dead as a dodo. So, what exactly is this guessing game which Helen Sears seems intent on playing with our eyes? Several sympathetic experts have already uttered on the subject of “Gone to earth,” Sears’s 1995 exhibition at the John Hansard Gallery, University of Southampton. Here, then, is a brief description of Sears’ modus operandi, together with a report of our interview.

Sears’s work is built upon the premise of the self-perpetuating myth of memory. Drawing upon a large fund of transparencies, her pieces sparkle with scintillae of light, a virtual trademark, and are the product of an elaborate process: B&W photographs colourised by slide projection, computer-manipulated, re-photographed in colour negative. She talks about “a physical journey to a particular site, much as an early explorer;” of “the death of the instant of the original photograph and its reanimation in the presence of the viewer;” of “the artifices of layering,” as also “never the idea of photographic truth, but of what lies beneath the surface.”

She invokes the influence of Angela Carter (Heroes and villains), Mary Shelley (The last man) and of the late, lamented Helen Chadwick, yet fails to mention Richard Long. Ever alive to new trends, our observer brings this colourful, young installation artist to your attention despite being by nature excluded from being identified with the landscape (see above) because, although fascinated by women, he is, alas, merely a man. Zelda Cheatle Gallery is at 8 Cecil Court, London WC2, tel: +44 (0)171 836 0506.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Reconstructing the environment'

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 71 June 1997