Helen Beard celebrates female sexuality and desire in bright colors – Art – ArtPlugged | Ad On Picture

British contemporary artist Helen Bart is known for her celebration of female sexuality and desire, a theme male artists have criticized for centuries. Beard’s work breaks with the male perspective and the stigma surrounding female sexuality in a very avant-garde way.

Based on close-ups of erotic imagery, Beard presents the female form in an abstract aesthetic, intricately shaped and vividly colored; The sequels are bold, beautiful images that exude an alluring yet provocative viewing pleasure that leaves a lasting impression on all who have had the pleasure of viewing it. In the art world, these are known as statement pieces.

Helen Bart
Image courtesy of the artist ©Jo Thorne Photography

I think it’s important that women don’t make excuses for needs that are all too often overlooked. I wanted to express sex in a fun way, without shame.

Helen Bart

Beard is a versatile artist working in various mediums such as painting, collage and embroidery. She is also a curator and has co-curated “sensitive content” at London unit with art historians Alayo Akinkugge and Maria Elena Buszek.

The exhibition theme focuses on artists who have been censored for their feminist, anti-racist or queer content, and protesting censorship is an integral part of their practice. The exhibition includes work by Beard herself, who has faced censorship of her practice on social platforms, as well as work by Pussy Riot, Betty Tompkins, Renee Cox, Xiao Lu and Renate Bertlman, and more.

We caught up with Beard during Sensitive Content to learn more about her practice, inspiration and curatorial approach to the exhibition.

Sensitive content is available at Unit London until 16 October 2022

Q: Hello Helen! How are you? Thank you for taking the time to speak to us. For those who don’t know, could you please introduce yourself?

A: Hello, I’m a multimedia artist best known for my large format oil paintings that celebrate female sexuality and desire in bright colors.

Helen Beard - Every peach pear plum
Helen Beard – Every peach pear plum
Q: Can you tell us how you got started with art, what role art has played in your life and why you decided to become an artist?

A: I worked in the film industry and then spent time raising my family, but I’ve always made art alongside my other pursuits. As my children grew older, I began to paint more seriously. I don’t think I decided to be an artist, I was just working, but when Damien Hirst saw some large format paintings I had made and bought one, the situation changed. When he saw it in the flesh he loved it and commissioned me to make more. He then held an exhibition at Newport Street Gallery featuring 3 female artists from his collection, True Colors, and this led to many amazing opportunities that allowed me to focus on my practice.

Helen BeardBig Night In
Helen Beard: Big Night in Pictures
Courtesy of the artist ©Helen Beard
Q: You have a diverse practice working with different mediums, from painting to collage to embroidery. And your work often celebrates eroticism and sexuality in explicit depictions. Can you tell us more about your inspirations, your creative process and what drives your art?

A: Like most artists, I’m driven by my own experience, I wanted to celebrate desire and a woman’s sexuality, and that’s where the work came from. I think it’s important that women don’t make excuses for needs that are all too often overlooked. I wanted to express sex in a fun way, without shame.

Q: Sensitive Content at Unit London examines the work of artists who have all faced censorship throughout their careers and examines the bold ways they chose to create works from nuanced perspectives on sex, beauty and politics despite censorship. You co-curated this exhibition with art historians Alayo Akinkugbe and Maria Elena Buszek. Can you tell us more about the exhibition, your curatorial approach and working with Alayo and Maria?

A: I was very fortunate to convince Maria and Alayo to work on it with me. They are both brilliant academics and have a broad knowledge of art history which is really important. We all suggested people that we thought would be good for the show and we were very fortunate that we all had the same vision for the show.

We made sure to keep the topic of censorship as broad as possible. But our only non-negotiable criterion was that the artist had to have been censored, be it on social media, by an institution or by a government.

Helen Beard - Red Moon 2020 Oil on canvas
Helen Beard – Red Moon 2020 Oil on canvas
Courtesy of the artist ©Helen Beard
Q: Censorship is a big problem for artists. It can be challenging for an artist to keep their practice alive when they’re constantly hitting obstacles — having faced censorship on Instagram themselves. Do you think enough is being done to protect freedom of expression, particularly on digital platforms, and what do you think needs to change?

A: I think platforms like Instagram can be great tools for artists to promote their work; It was definitely the case for me. But the discrepancy between what is seen and what is not is clear – I don’t know how to resolve it! All I know is that more women, people of color and people who identify as queer are getting shadow bans, being taken down and their social media accounts shut down. And that has to change. The algorithms are clearly programmed into the majority of white males, resulting in an inequality of what is seen regardless of its artistic content.

Helen Beard: Do I dare eat a peach?
Helen Beard: Do I dare eat a peach?
Courtesy of the artist ©Helen Beard
Q: The studio is the sacred temple of creativity. What are three things you can’t do without in your studio?

A: Mornings sat thoughtfully overlooking the ocean, coffee and Williamsburg oil paints.

Q: What’s next for you as an artist and curator?

A: I have a two-room solo show at Reflex Gallery Amsterdam, which I’m feverishly painting for. It’s called The Tulips are Too Excitable, it’s Winter Here and it opens on November 12th. It will include around 40 works, ranging from small studies to very large paintings.

I am also doing my first woodcut to be published later this year.

Helen Beard - New-Beginnings 2014 Handwoven needlepoint in tapestry wool
Helen Beard – New Beginnings 2014
Handwoven needlepoint from tapestry wool
Courtesy of the artist ©Helen Beard
Q: Finally, what does art mean to you?

A: All. The cultural importance of the arts is overlooked by so many people, including governments, the media and our state institutions. I think that without art, society in all its forms dies. It was clear that we needed books, films and art to feed us more than ever when the pandemic hit. I believe we should all be encouraged in our creativity.


©2022 Helen Beard, Jo Thorne Photography

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