• Above:  Circle of Life, 2018

  • Above: I live yet I die trilogy.  Helle Helsner's stories in metal

  • Above L & R: Colourscapes  Below L: From the Forest Drawing Series  Below R: Plein Air Drawing, Sherkin Island 

  • Above and below: Cast Drawing. The making of Circle of Life:  In process   

  • L and R: Helle Helsner's Bronze casting techniques

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  • BF: You mention cast drawing - that sounds intriguing - what actually is cast drawing and what’s your process? 

    HH: Drawing for me is very much about capturing the essence of what I draw, which can then be interpreted and solidified in the bronze so to speak. The cast drawing is a more literal interpretation of this as I actually cast a piece of the drawing. The cast drawing  'Circular Motions' is a section of a shadow drawing capturing the shadow of a lichen cover branch on paper and then reinforcing a part of the drawing so I can invest it in a mould and cast it in bronze. The play between essence and solid form intrigues me. Casting the drawing as thin as possible also challenges my bronze casting skills but in a way also my drawing methodology.

  • BF: What is coming next for Helle Helsner?  Where is your practice taking you right now?

    HHWell……I am currently working on a plan to fine tune my work in order to take it to new places and show it on a wider level.  So I am trying to anchor myself to the studio as much as possible, to further develop my process. The jewellery needs a more directed approach whilst still keeping the intuitive and playful elements, so I'm working on perfecting that process, which is slightly different to my approach to sculpture. I try to create narratives so that the jewellery becomes part of a story and not just individual pieces. This means one title might be made up of three individual pieces of jewellery. It also means the story has an element of cast nature or cast drawings of nature, as I am again playing with the whole shadow side of things.

     

    I have also been asked to speak at MAKE19 – a symposium on making and materialty in Cork, Ireland organised by textile artist Pamela Hardesty for Crawford College of Art.  It features speakers from the UK, Denmark, USA and Ireland. I am very excited about it, it's such an opportunity to put words on my practice and share my passion with others. I will be talking about metal!

     

    On the sculpture side, I have a figurative and vessel theme playing. But this will be a slow burner and may be something for 2020 for which I am currently organizing a joint Danish/Irish exhibition with help from the Danish embassy in Dublin. 2020 also marks the year where I will have spent half my life in each country - so it will be very special! 

     

    To find out more about Helle Helsner visit her Creator Space here and her Gallery Shop here  Find out  more about Baby Forest here

     

     

     


     

     

     

     

     

  • BF: Tell us about your Colourscapes and Forest drawings.

     

    HH:  The colourscapes and forest drawings came about with my fascination of landscape. I really enjoy plein air drawing and find that once I find a spot, I can become quite obsessive. On Sherkin island (where the colourscapes originate) a young friend of mine who I had invited along for drawing remarked: ‘how many times can you draw one cliff wall!!! …’ The answer – many times! It’s the same with trees – every time you look at them, they change, or something else becomes the focus. It's repetition, yes, but it is also seeing something new. Working this way allows me not only to reinvent but also leaves me with many drawings to choose from and perhaps rework in another way. The colourscapes are examples of that. I added colour(ink) to the original drawings and then tore them into different pieces reassembling in a collage kind of way before adding more ink and acrylic. It is a very playful and unconstrained way of working. It allows for informed decisions but also very much for happy coincidences, so you don’t really know where the work is taking you.

     

    BFIs the place you live important to you?  Does it influence your work?

    HH: Where I live is of huge importance. I live surrounded by trees but also with a view of the estuary. Nature, rocks and having an active self and dog means I get to spend time in nature every day. Different areas in my neighbourhood correspond to different moods so I feel very privileged to live where I live.

     

    BF: Which creators do you most admire?

     

    HHAll of them really – anybody who sticks their work out there are to be admired! To quote Kierkegaard : To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily – not to dare is to lose oneself. I think most creators spend a lot of time ‘unfooted!’

     

    BF: What makes you happy?

     

    HH: Simple things…simplicity, laughter, work – friends.

     

    BF: What would you like to change?

     

    HH: Hmmmmm I am actually not sure. Though the road I travel isn’t always easy I kind of feel I am where I need to be…..less bumps perhaps!

     

    BF:If you had one important message to give to the world, what would it be?

     

    HH: We only have ONE world. …and don’t follow blindly!

     


     

     

     

     

     

     

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  • Helle Helsner casting using ancient techniques in the forest at BFHQ

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  • Bronze cast figures: Helle Helsner

  • Cast Bowls in Bronze: Helle Helsner 

  • BF: What is your creative process?

     

    HH: I do a lot of my work in my head. An idea will pop up and though I do use sketchbooks a lot of the work is unseen. I find my morning walks with Alberta the dog is where a lot of my ideas either come or are resolved. Once that process is completed, I then take it to the studio. 

    BF: Your practice seems to branch out into distinctive disciplines: drawing, sculpture & sculptural jewellery.  But drawing seems to be at the base of everything.  Can you tell us a bit about that?

     

    HH: While bronze casting may be a life long love affair, drawing is what keeps me grounded. It is a key element for in my understanding of everything. Drawing is how I make sense of the world and people. Without drawing I think I would be lost.  I am on a continual journey re-examining the materials closest to my heart: metal, wood and paper.  Through natural forms I wish to investigate where my skills can take me. Plein air drawing and experimental casting are key to everything.

     

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  • It's all common sense really and these rituals connect us deeply to the earth and environment, but it's something we, wrapped up in our consumer world, have forgotten and so we tend to plunder without thought or thanks. The experience made me much more aware of my responsibilities as a person and as an artist. I think about the material I use and I recycle as much as possible and give thanks to my materials after each cast.

    Just recently I received an email from Flemming Kaul, senior curator and researcher at The National Museum in Copenhagen - I call him the Godfather of Danish Bronze Age! An absolutely amazing discovery has been made on the Sunhorse from Trundholm (a very famous Danish Bronze Age find).  Around the anus of the Sunhorse piece, traces of horse manure have been found suggesting the link between clay and horse manure in bronze age mould making, a link which we archeaologists are convinced of. It is incredibly interesting because of the huge importance of the horse in Danish Bronze Age iconography and religion and the fact that the introduction of lost wax/cire perdue was around the same time as the horses introduction to Denmark. Flemming mentioned me in an article regarding the Sunhorse referring to my use and experience of horse manure in my mould making techniques. Something I am incredibly proud of!  

  • BF: Could you describe your work to me in a few short sentences?

    HHIntuitive understanding of materials presenting itself in figurative and natural/organic narratives.

     

    BF: Where do you draw inspiration from?

     

    HHI am very influenced by the nature which surrounds me, however our ancient past also has a major influence. Giacometti is one of my earliest sculptural influences and still is.

     

    BF: What is your work about?

     

    HH: I think my work is a continued exploration of materials and processes and currently very much influenced by the shadow side of things. And I mean shadow side both literally and symbolic.

     

    BF: How do you work? Alone? In a studio? With others?

     

    HH: I work alone from my own studio but I also love collaborating - but I am in need solitude when immersed in my work.

     


     

     

  • BF:  Your casting methods are based around much research into archaeology and ancient technique but has also included shamanism.  How does that work practically, and why is it important to your work?   

    HH:  Well on a practical level I use mould making techniques based on bronze age methods for all my works.  I use a combination of clay and horse manure for my lost wax casting - so it's a very organic and mostly sustainable approach. But it also demands of me that I know my materials and, over the years, I have developed a real understanding for them. In ancient times nothing was coincidental - bronze casting was not just done for the sake of bronze casting but done mostly in a ritual connection not only creating objects for every day use, but also sacrificial and holy objects.

    For me using this unique way of working brings me closer to not only my work, but also, the traditions that have gone before me. It has brought me in contact with many people and one of them was a writer, artist and teacher from New Mexico, who was a shaman in a small Guatemalan village before the civil war forced him to flee back to New Mexico. I was invited to go to New Mexico to do ritual bronze casting for a 100 people and it was such an amazing experience.  I was given a language that described and gave voice to what I was already doing.  As we honored the materials we worked with and treated these materials with gratitude, an even deeper ritualistic process was instilled in me which lasts to this day.

     


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  • BF: Did you receive any formal bronze casting training - or did you come to it via another route?

     

    HH: Crawford College of Art & Design, Cork BA(hons) 1998 was where I was introduced to bronze casting and I went on to do a MA by research in pre historic casting techniques finishing 2001.

     

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  • Working alongside a shaman in New Mexico was the catalyst that led artist Helle Helsner to nature and her strong ecological, sustainable practice centred around sculpture and drawing. Born in Copenhagen, Helsner has been based in Ireland since 1994.  With a research MA from Crawford College of Art & Design in sculptural bronze casting and archaeology, her art explores pre-historic casting methods.  She leads workshops in drawing and ancient casting techniques throughout Ireland, Denmark & the USA, and is known for her organic and figurative sculptures.  Her organic forms extend to art jewellery, wearable micro sculptures, which she casts using the same ancient techniques. Here she talks to Baby Forest about her work.


  • BF:  How would you describe your work and what it is that you do?

     

    HH: I am a sculptor specialising in bronze casting with a very strong drawing practice.

     

    BF:   How did you come to be an artist?

     

    HH: I often say I became an artist slightly by default…..I was born and grew up in Denmark and always thoroughly enjoyed all the creative subjects in school. We also had a lot of museum visits, so art was always present. However, it wasn’t until much later that I started considering a career as an artist – probably not till I  suddenly found myself actually applying for the Crawford College of Art and Design in 1992!