Helen Redmond’s full time studio practice is a fulfilment of a life in visual art, interior architecture and design. In a real sense it is a continuum, a natural outcome from decades steeped in experiencing architecture both theoretically and physically. In Redmond’s paintings the idea of 'spaces' and 'interiors' became more symbolic and subtle. With a deft use of perspective and shadow she generates a depth that feels aerial rather than frontal. You can look at these works as if opening a box, descending a stairwell or being drawn into a labyrinth. The idea of the painting as a chamber is an ancient one. Some of her textures remind me of the Villa of Mysteries in Pompeii, others possess the crushed right angles of the micro-architecture depicted in proto-Renaissance allegorical painting. Some evoke abandoned space, a remnant of post-industrial desolation. Yet none are descriptive images of a known place. Rather, as a body of work, they form an accretion of spaces: Mythic, ritual, art historical, projected and submerged.
Her subject is illusory: metaphysical rather than actual. Volumes of space contain time, as in turn time erodes space. Decay. Silence. Hermetic secrecy. All of these qualities are by their nature impossible to quantify. And painting has always tried.
Inspired by the minimalist poetic force of pivotal Modernist architects such as Luis Barragan and Tadao Ando, the abstracted geometric forms in her work strongly resembles the mutable stains and patina of concrete and stone. Using a very gradual method of painting, the surfaces accrete sheer veils of glaze and tiny brushstrokes until they take on a solidity that deepens their presence. The compressed simplicity of each composition serves to magnify and distort their scale. I suppose that is the real power of geometry. To contract or to infinitely expand.
Emotionally the atmospherics can be detached and somewhat withholding, A certain opacity forges a gateway, and many of these paintings seem to be guarding their own entrance. To encounter these works is to reach an immediate visual threshold. The tension this generates is palpable. Visually these paintings feel like an initiation bringing you to the brink of each space rather than its core. It’s a precipice. Like approaching a portal or a window, the vista of each painting is composed to beckon. The experience is of apprehending a space and finding your place within it. The sense of being 'beckoned' by her compositions is sustained by the deft use of light source as peripheral. Behind forms that resemble walls, pillars and screens is light and that light evokes the sense of further passages, further chambers, unseen spectacles enclosed and sequestered beyond reach.
And while many artists speak of space and time as their central subject matter, Redmond uses economic means to drill into epic themes. In a contemporary context of perpetual distraction and movement she summons a tranquil stasis. In a painting landscape of violent colour and heaving texture she uses subtle tonalism. And in the face of purist abstraction she uses highly evocative forms that summon buildings/temples/walls. Happily her disciplined and formalist compositions do not capsize under the weight of their own history. Instead these are small paintings with mural qualities. Like blueprints for something much larger, they glower with compressed energy. The proportion they balance between the form and the void is well honed. You look at these aqueous halls and concealed doorways and of course you have to ask…what’s in there? What compels me? What is beyond? Deliberately those questions remain unmet and in their place are entities of even more blinding ambiguity: Mutable light. Enigmatic shadow. Mass. Weightlessness. Magnetism. Secrecy. These are both the subjects and the materials of Helen Redmond’s work. And although she speaks often of silence, these quiet chambers roar as loudly as the inside of a shell.
Anna Johnson, Autumn, 2021
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