Thursday, October 25, 2012


Helen Sear's Pastoral Monuments

Each of my working days is spent surrounded by impeccably made, conceptually strong and visually rich fine art photographs. As I write, I have in my view the Pastoral Monuments series by Helen Sear.

Pastoral Monument 11,  Fumaria Bastardii ©Helen Sear

These compelling photographs are Helen Sear's most recent body of work. Her process of making is long and complex. They are straight photographs, but she has handled them and evidence of that handling is integral in the final art object—a photograph of a photograph.

 Pastoral Monument 1,  Myosotis Arvensis ©Helen Sear

The remarkable aspect of this work visually, is Sear's success in maintaining a sense of volume within the flat surface of the photograph. The suggestion of texture across the smooth surface of the image, also transforms the photographed space and subjects onto—or into—one visual plane. In some of the photographs, the solid vessel containing the flowers, appears transparent. Many visitors to the gallery have commented on them being like a  trompe l'eoil.

Pastoral Monument 1,  Myosotis Arvensis (DETAIL) ©Helen Sear

Inspired by the photographs of Mary Dillwyn—a 19th Century Botanist and Photographer—Sear brings the practice of photographing flowers, within a still life context, right up-to-date. The flowers are not the well bred, manicured specimens we would normally see. They represent a carefully selected few, from more than eighty varieties of wild flower, growing in a single field in Wales—frequented daily by the artist.

These normally ignored flowers are elevated to a position of beauty and admiration. Sear causes us to look at and study them. She skillfully turns our attention to the photographic object itself, creating a space of scrutiny that stops us in our track and forces us to 'not take the photograph for granted'. She does all of this through an accomplished body of work that continues her career-long pre-occupation with the materiality of the object and the cognitive and physical experience of perception.

In my mind, this is work by an established artist of great merit. The pricing on Pastoral Monuments is very conservative and a reflection of the current economy.  Thus making their purchase, at this time, a very good deal indeed!

The Pastoral Monuments series is available as follows:

Edition: 3 + 2 AP's (AP1 nfs)
Size: 27.5" x 27.5"
Medium: Pigment Print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag
Year: 2012

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