Visually exciting — bright, dynamic and voyeuristic — the work of British artist Helen Beard wields colour, texture and abstraction as tools to take back ownership of sexual imagery from the predominantly male gaze. Beard’s work explores themes relating to gender, sexual psychology and eroticism, forever unapologetic in her depictions of female desire.
Reflex Amsterdam is pleased to announce the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery. While Beard’s artistic practice encompasses different mediums, including collage, sculpture, ceramics and needlepoint, The Desire Path focuses on her painting and features work in a diversity of sizes, ranging from small studies to large-scale canvasses. The artist’s small acrylic on board works function as preliminary studies for her oil on canvas paintings, in which she instinctively chooses the colours for her compositions.
Situated between abstraction and representation, her figures are reduced to concisely defined fields of vibrant colour. Working from found images, Beard’s eye for cinematic compositions featuring close-ups and interesting angles reveal her past experience as an assistant art director in the film industry.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of Beard’s oil paintings are the brushstrokes left visible in the otherwise dense surfaces of paint. Transitioning to oil from acrylic paint in 2008, Beard started to experiment with the texture of her paintings, creating an entirely different feeling on the surface of the canvas. As Beard explains in an interview in 2018: “[the brushstrokes] are almost like the touch on skin, like fingerprints”. Against the vigour and excitement of the artist's choice of subject matter and palette, these strokes return a touch of tenderness to the abstract scenes, creating a fascinating tension that celebrates humankind’s instinctual fascination with sex, as well as its life-affirming nature.
Helen Beard (1971) studied at Bournemouth and Poole college of Art and Design, graduating in 1992. The artist participated in Simulation Skin: Selected works from the Murderme Collection (2017) and True Colours (2018) at Newport Street Gallery, London. Her most recent exhibitions include the group show 21st Century Women (2018) curated by Jane Neal and Fru Tholstrup and the solo exhibition It’s Her Factory (2019) at the Unit London. The artist’s work can be found in major collections worldwide. Beard lives and works in Brighton, UK.
The Desire Path is Beard’s first exhibition outside of the UK and marks the start of Beard’s representation at Reflex Amsterdam for the Benelux. On occasion of the exhibition, the gallery is publishing Beard’s first monograph including an essay by Matt Carey-Williams.