Paint and water, mark making, tone, shadow, density, line and form, portraiture is an ancient art form steeped in cultural meaning and aesthetic. The whole cosmos shines in the face.
“Thou sun, of this great world both eye and soul.” Milton
Layers of emotion, expression, feeling sense and worldly experience, all revealed in skin, flesh and bones in the face, a persona is presented to the world. The tension and empathy between unconsious, self conscious and conscious find their coherence or incoherence. The stories of time, evolving embodied gesture muscle tensions and memories are made visible in the lines of the face. The relationship between artist and model is transformative one for both. The process of seeing and being seen visible in skin tone, muscle tension, form, line, complexion, gesture in mouth, eyes and features. The angle of jaw, the alignment in bone structure, the imprint of mother and the ancestors, the process of revelation of a person to the one who is becoming.
I paint portraits in acrylic, pastel and water colour, across age/ time/ bakcground and culture. I believe portraiture makes visible and bears witness to the mysteries of human wholeness, breaks taboos, crosses social/ cultural boundaries and reveals new bridges and understanding.
How do we learn to see and map the world? How do we learn to be seen and mapped by the world? How do we show ourselves to others? How do our experiences of ourselves and others relatedness/ unrelatedness reside in our skin?
Art helps reveal life. Using tools, making marks, colour, density, mass and gravity on canvas offers a process through which inner wisdom and human understanding might emerge and the process of the becoming human is made visible.
Origins – Helen Edwards
Acrylic on Canvas, 2016
Part of a series of Art and Science Collaborations, Tomorrow’s Child Exhibition at UK Parliament.
Origins is one of a series of portraits bringing form and visibility to early developmental forces from conception into life. Symbolic imagery, line, texture and colour weave together and explore growing identity and relatedness in archetypal aspects of existence. The image of a mother and child is one of containment and transformation and in this work is drawn from work with parents and infants exploring capacity for the development of tool use in Oxford Baby Laboratory Research. The pair are juxtaposed with developmental evolutionary images of corvids, ‘clever’ birds who also develop such capacity. The birds symbolise the birth of the soul, and the separation into the spiritual and material world. They bring the element of air and freedom alongside the forces of gravity. In this image they rest upon the mother’s shoulder symbolising the union of human and nature, referencing the tree of life within the mother’s identity.
I have a strong feeling for the elements. The sense of earth bringing groundedness to portraiture and form, immersion in water bringing colour and flow from the unconsiouness and dream world. Fire bringing spirit and transformative/ alchemical capacity to image development and quality. Air bringing thought and freedom to a journey of connectedness and alignment.
In this portrait, the emphasis on face, hair and hands references their prominent roles in the interactivity, playfulness, reciprocity and relationality present to the world of the infant, so important to the growing sense of holding and safety, from which ground the growing imprint of thought and associated neurological growth might accompany the acquisition of consciousness and existence of the growing identities of mother and infant. The egg symbolises a transformative space, with containment and holding, darkness separated from light, a psychological, physical and spiritual vessel within which a transformation takes place. This idea traces the holding of mother and child from caves and womb like spaces referenced historically in painting as of the earth into the defined space of the egg. The egg nourishes and enlivens the embryo and it is the continuation of this process after birth being explored for the infant and mother in this work. The egg also references the father’s presence bringing holding, containment, strength, fragility, visibility and invisibility depending on perception.
The aspects explored in this portrait essential to the development and communication of the origins of an innate sense of love and relatedness, are central to 1001 Critical Days Cross Party Manifesto and the support, understanding and confidence needed for parents to find their own capacity to offer sensitive, appropriate and responsive care to their infants and nurtured by family, statutory and specialist service support.
Parent Infant Partnership (PIP) UK. Tomorrow’s Child Exhibition in Parliament: 27th June – 1st July 2016
Without a name, an unseen face
Without a name; an unseen face and knowing not your time nor place, Tomorrow’s Child, though yet unborn, I met you first last Tuesday morn. The beginnings of this poem by Glenn Thomas was read by Ray Anderson during his TED conference talk regarding sustainability, but today its ethos is being addressed by the charity Parent Infant Partnership (PIP) UK who are facilitating an exhibition in Parliament, to continue focusing the hearts and minds of policymakers regarding the experience of being a baby in the UK.
The origins of Monday’s Child is fair of face rhyme with its beginnings in the mid-nineteenth century, used a fortune telling methodology to predict the life chances of childhood. Today there is incontrovertible scientific understanding which is contributing to policy discussions of the 1001 Critical days: conception to age 2 period – asking for a cultural shift in thinking about the importance of the antenatal period and its significance for future life chances of the unborn baby.
Tomorrow’s child exhibition presents a creative response to the only cross-party children’s manifesto in the country which brings together a coalition of policy-makers, professionals and parents, to enable the village around the infant-family in our local communities.
Should the day in which you are born determine your life chances? Giving every baby the best possible start in life presents us with a challenge and responsibility to consider together what that looks like in the UK. How well we are doing with what science and economics is showing us is a progressive way of thinking for better outcomes for our citizens.
Earliest relationships and children’s experiences of this right from their experience in the womb, lays the foundations of potential and building blocks to support infant and early childhood mental health.
Creative collaborations between a community of 60 artists and scientists have generated a fascinating menagerie of art objects, images and designs, which positions this exhibition as a pioneering piece of neuroscientific enterprise.
Building babies minds has been a recent campaign launched by the charity PIPUK, recently saw over 10 million people across the UK engaged in raising awareness of infant mental health in the first national week of its kind. Infant mental health and its public message of prevention as cure, contributes significantly to children’s mental health and it is in this context that thinking about a child’s life chances can be thought about – preventonomics to give a better start for investing into our future generations.
Tim Loughton MP says “There is a growing acknowledgment that those first early years of a child’s life are absolutely crucial. Getting it right as parents supported by professional help and public investment where needed has the potential to make a huge difference to how that child will grow into an adult contributing to society.
Putting this approach at the heart of what Government does in which there is now buy in of all the political parties. I’m delighted to be sponsoring the Tomorrow’s Child exhibition in Parliament which is a creative response to the 1001 critical days’ manifesto from a community of artists and scientists who have worked in collaboration over many months to bring the arts and science together for such an important topic”.
Bringing art and science together to represent the names and faces of the 776,352 babies born each year in the UK and the many losses which add up to 3,564 stillbirths, 42,841 recorded miscarriages and around 186,000 through termination of pregnancy brings a focus for the infant-family and all of the joys and sorrows experienced in homes throughout our villages, towns and cities.
You can discover more on https://www.zero2expo.com/parliament-2016/