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MUNTHE ART MONDAY: Helen Booth

Profession: Contemporary abstract painter
Website: helenbooth.com
Instagram: @helenboothartist
Images by: Leia Morrison

Introduce yourself and what you do.

My name is Helen Booth. I am a contemporary abstract painter and I live in a very rural part of Wales in the United Kingdom. I graduated from Wimbledon School of Art in 1989, and I moved from London to Wales in 1997 to an old woolen mill about 20 minutes from the sea.

Nature has always fascinated me, especially its cyclical aspect and its repetitive patterns. A recent Iceland residency in early 2020 has led to an explosion of creativity in my studio. Experiencing this dramatic and menacing landscape really distilled my creative practice. I can remember walking through thigh-deep snow. Everywhere was white, the most sublime view surrounded me, and I couldn't quite grasp what I was feeling - like every atom in my body was vibrating at the same frequency as the landscape. 

In my most recent works, the stripped-back monochromatic palette on large-scale raw canvas is an emotional connection and response to the country and my experience as an Artist in Residence in Reykjavik.

Could you explain more about how being a woman has affected your career?

This is such a tricky question.

Women are definitely under-represented in the industry. It is tough to get recognition because there is an assumption that a woman cannot commit to her own practice while also raising a family.

I have two daughters who are now in their twenties and being a mother when they were growing up was an essential part of my life. I wanted to make sure that my children had the best possible childhood that I could give them. Parenting is time-consuming – but as soon as they started school, I painted every day. My daughters needed to see how hard I worked and how important my career was as an artist.

Now, as a 53-year-old woman, it feels more complicated and brings different challenges - but I work extremely hard in my studio and enjoy the opportunities that have arisen from nurturing my online networks, especially during COVID. The internet has opened up so many possibilities for me, which I find empowering. I am in control of my career. It's been wonderful to talk to female collectors and curators worldwide about my work. I've also been working with various female mentors who have helped me develop my creative path, and I'm exhibiting in several galleries that are run entirely by women. It hasn't been a conscious decision to work solely with female gallerists, but it is a sure sign that the art world is changing. Which is a good thing!

Can you name some other female (artists) that inspire you and explain why they do so?

I have many female artists that I turn to for inspiration. I suppose the ones that I've always looked at from a young age would be Agnes Martin, Louise Bourgeois, and Eva Hesse. I love the repetition and mark-making of all of these artists. I also owe a massive debt to Lee Krasner and Esther Gottlieb, both influential creative women who set up foundations to support artists. Their financial support has allowed me to continue to produce work.

Most recently, I have found joy in the work of Amy Feldman. I love her playful mark-making, which I have found very uplifting in lockdown. I also love to read. I'm enjoying Winter by Ali Smith at the moment, and one of my favorite books by Christiane Ritter – A Woman in a Polar Night – has been crucial after my residency in Iceland. I adore the cold, and the way that she describes the Arctic is pure magic!

I am also incredibly proud and inspired by my daughters – Hattie Morrison, a writer, and Leia Morrison, a photographer. They both work so hard on their practice, and we all buoy each other in our creative endeavors.

What has been the most challenging aspect of being a female artist?

Having the determination to keep making art!

What would you like people to notice in your artwork?

My paintings are my way of making sense of the brevity of the human condition. I hope that the work instils a sense of calm and allows the viewer to connect on an elemental level. I want the work to draw the viewer in and allow time to breathe and reflect. There's something about working with a monochromatic palette. It demands the viewer to look more closely. Having to observe for a little longer forces a pause.

Each Monday we bring you an interview with a female artist. Follow along at MUNTHE ART MONDAY.