Helen Bermingham’s practice explores ideas of memory, interruption and displacement. Using imagery found in old family photographs, figures are lifted from their original setting and isolated from their original context. The figures in her work are recreated; concealed, covered, fading in and out of memory. Through this appropriation, new narratives are created or suggested with a sense of the uncanny; familiar yet strange at the same time.
Can you describe your practice in a few words?
Displacement, interruption, memory, reinvention....blurring, fading, erasing...messy studio...
What is your earliest memory of art?
The Sacred Heart print that was probably in most Irish Catholic homes...!
Have you shown your work in a non-white cube space before?
Yes, I showed some work in a disused old building in Rye a few years ago. It had beautiful crumbling walls and was full of interesting and curious spaces. It gave the artists the opportunity to put work in a different context and create and explore new meanings.
What does this sort of space bring to your work?
In showing at Geddes, personally I hope my work can become almost a 'part' of the domestic space but in an uncanny manner; faded blurred paintings from old photos occupy the space where unknown family photos or paintings previously hung; paintings of domestic objects floating above spaces where potentially real objects owned by previous occupants sat....a kind of pictorial memento mori to an unknown past. I love the potential for 'theatricality' within a space like this; that the space can become a part of the work and vice versa; new narratives can emerge.
Does the environment in which you exhibit your work change how your work is perceived?
A gallery like Geddes can become an immersive experience; work becomes and creates part of a bigger narrative of the space in which it is set. I think the space can almost be less intimidating than the white cube space, it allows the visitor to explore and find art in new and interesting ways.
What is your greatest weakness?
Being too self-critical. And coffee.
What was the last exhibition you visited that unnerved you?
Tino Sehgal at Martin Gropis Bau in Berlin last summer. Two of the five performance works involved walking into dark rooms, not being able to see where you were going or who else might be in the room with you. When your eyes adjusted to the darkness you could see the vague silhouettes of the performers in there. You tried to figure out what narratives were happening in the space and sometimes wondered who were performers and who were visitors. Entering the unknown without the aid of one of your major senses created a sense of great vulnerability.
Who have been your main influences over the years, both in historical and recent terms?
I have a background in theatre and work by writers such as Beckett, McDonough and Enda Walsh are a constant influence on me. The poetry and imagery created by the work of Enda Walsh in particular is so beautiful, unsettling and powerful. If I could create paintings that had the same aura as his writing I'd die happy. Over the past few years I've been reading a lot of books by Irish writers exploring family / domestic life in Ireland now and in the past; the effects of growing up in Irish 'culture'. And recently there's been a lot of wonderful new writing emerging from Irish writers off the back of the recession. In terms of artists it's ever changing... Bacon, Schiele, Kollwitz, Richard Billingham, Lars Elling, Caravaggio, Goya, Jan Steen, Manet...to name a few.
What projects do you have coming up in the future?
I have an exhibition of Editions with Hundred Years Gallery showing at Simmons Contemporary soon. There is also a self-initiated drawing project which can be seen on Twitter and Instagram with the aim of creating a drawing everyday for the whole of this year in an attempt to (ironically) counteract a busy working life and generate more imagery for painting.
Helen Bermingham (b. Ireland 1983) is a London based artist working in collage, painting, and drawing. She completed a degree in History of Art and Theatre at Trinity College Dublin and a postgraduate at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
She has exhibited throughout the UK and Europe including with Lubomirov Angus-Hughes Gallery, Zeitgeist Arts Projects, Hundred Years Gallery and Universität der Künste Berlin. Her collage work was recently chosen to be part of the Editions programme at Hundred Years Gallery, London. She was part of the ALAS artists residency with Matt Roberts Arts and was longlisted for Anthology 2015 at Charlie Smith London. Her work is held in private collections in the UK and the USA.