Helen Sear

Helen Sear: Prospect Refugee Hazard

Internationally-acclaimed artist Helen Sear invites viewers into forests and woodlands in her latest exhibition.

Prospect Refugee Hazard includes video, photography and sound to consider the co-existence of human, animal and natural worlds.

Highlights include Wahaha Biota, a major new video commissioned by Forestry Commission England and Crescent Arts.

Other highlights are Company of Trees, which premiered at the prestigious Venice Biennale as part of Wales in Venice, and Paintball Pictures, exhibited for the first time.

Company of Trees, installation view © Helen Sear

Project Refugee Hazard

For more than 30 years, Sear has been making artworks about how humans experience landscape and nature.

Prospect Refuge Hazard is titled after Jay Appleton’s influential theories on our deep-seated responses to the dangers of the natural environment, and why we find certain environments ‘beautiful’.

“Many of the processes in my work are experimental,” says Sear.

“Although I started using digital technologies in the 1980s, I am essentially exploring something primal, how we as humans relate to our environment and coexist with other living creatures.

“I have always been interested in the potential of art works to elicit feeling, and extend our human experience of the world.”

Exhibition highlights

Made during a year-long residency in Dalby Forest, North Yorkshire, Wahata Biota (2018, 27 mins) responds to the forest’s diverse activities.

A soundtrack mingles birdsong and deer calls with snippets of lyrics from rock concerts staged in the forest, all forming a human ‘dawn chorus’.

Inspired by Sear’s walks near her home in rural Wales, Company of Trees (2015, 11 mins) features an enigmatic woman in a red dress. She circles beech trees branded with fellers’ numbers.

Presented as large-scale projections with timed screenings, the two films fully immerse viewers in the forest, allowing them to experience the environment in new and sometimes surprising ways.

Produced especially for Impressions Gallery, Paintball Pictures (2018) is a series of 24 photographs.

The strange paraphernalia and brightly-colour detritus of paintball battles transform woodland scenes.

This leisure pursuit mirrors the system originally developed for forestry workers to mark trees.

Other works include Altar (2015, 8 mins), a vignetted film observing blue tits and coal tits; Stack (2015), an eight-metre long image presented on aluminium ‘planks’ that lean against the walls; and Becoming Forest (2017), a series of photographs digitally tracing tangles of new forest growth.

Helen Sear
Paintball 8, from the series Paintball Pictures © Helen Sear

Helen Sear

Sear studied Fine Art at Reading University and the Slade School, University College London.

Her work came to prominence in the 1991 British Council exhibition DeComposition: Constructed Photography in Britain, which toured extensively throughout Latin America and Eastern Europe.

Grounded, curated by Impressions Gallery, was exhibited as a national tour between 2003 and 2005.

Other solo exhibitions include Inside The View, shown at Gallery Harmonia in 2006, and Beyond The View at Klompching Gallery in 2010.

Sear was the first woman to represent Wales with a solo exhibition at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015.

She is currently visiting professor at the Royal Academy Schools London with forthcoming exhibitions in Eindhoven and Basel in 2019.

Anne McNeill, Director of Impressions Gallery, says: “Helen Sear creates worlds that draw you in; her work is mesmerising and visually compelling.

“We are delighted to stage this exhibition of rich and fascinating artworks by a major photographic innovator.”

Prospect Refugee Hazard is on until March 16 at Impressions Gallery, Bradford.

Spectrum Photographic produced 24 x Hahnemühle Fine Art Pearl prints for the show.

To view more of Helen Sear’s work visit www.helensear.com.

Main image: Wahaha Biota, video still © Helen Sear

Recent blogs

Must-see international exhibitions this February

Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life Death and Rebirth

LUMEN: Museum of Mountain Photography

The Invisible Inbetween: An Englishman’s Search For The Irish Border