Into the colorful and bold universe of Helen Beard

Art is never chaste. It ought to be forbidden to ignorant innocents, never allowed into contact with those not sufficiently prepared. Yes, art is dangerous. Where it is chaste, it is not art“. Pablo Picasso
Screen Shot 2019-11-10 at 9.37.07 AMThis famous quote can certainly be applied to Helen Beard artworks and I wonder if Picasso would not have been piqued to have been in comparison, so chaste himself.

I first discovered the artworks of British artist Helen Beard in 2018, during the Secret auction of Art on a Postcard and was struck by how she had managed to transform bold sexual images in colorful joyous artworks which could be (at first glance) mistaken for minimalist abstract artworks.

I had the chance to chat with the Brighton-based artist who kindly shared about her work and projects.

The breakthrough

Helen Beard started a career as a freelance wardrobe stylist and assistant art director in the film industry for 15 years and has been practicing art all along, working in various mediums including paint, collage and needlepoint. It’s in 2017, that her work got noticed by Damien Hirst, through her husband who works for the famous artist. Hirst encouraged her to share her work.

Indeed until then, Helen Beard wasn’t exhibiting her colorful paintings “I was not hiding my work but I didn’t know where or who to show it too! As a women coming back to making work after having children I was not sure of the way into the art world and anyway I was just making the art that I wanted to make without thinking about what would happen to it after it was made” says Helen Beard.

Her message is that sex should be associated with a moment of joy, without taboo and that this subject matter can be dealt with by a woman. Interviewed in The Quietus, she told “I just think it’s ridiculous female sexuality is not talked about very much in society.  It’s about patriarchy, isn’t it? (..) It keeps it in a male dominated world, and it’s a lot easier for the patriarchal world to ignore female desire”.

Screen Shot 2019-11-10 at 9.32.22 AMAbout her relationship with Hirst, she shares that “Damien has been a great mentor and champion of my art, I believe he is genuinely mad about it!”. Not only he guided her into the art world but also shared advices about her work: “he advised me to go big! And he was so right! My paintings have a big impact at a grander scale”.

Damien Hirst has been a supporter of his fellow artists since he started in the art world with the organization of the Freeze group show with the (now called) Young British Artists. Now that he’s established, he keeps supporting emerging artists and Helen Beard is among them.

Screen Shot 2019-11-10 at 9.36.34 AMHer projects and dreams

The schedule of the artist has been busy in the last two years with several exhibitions and among them the group exhibition True Colours in 2018 with Sadie Laska and Boo Saville in Newport Street Gallery (London) and her first solo show in September 2019 at Unit Gallery in (London). 

Her work has been selected to be included in the prestigious MTV RE:DEFINE Auction 2019 (supporting the fight for HIV awareness) and she continues her support to Art on a Postcard “I select the charities that are important to me, I do get frequent requests and can’t do them all but it is nice to support the charities that I believe in”.

When asked about her dream projects ahead, she told me that “I have so much work I want to make, I would like to make some large scale collages which Damien is encouraging me to make. And I would also like to make some sculptures that are like 3D versions of my paintings.” For now, she’s working on her upcoming exhibition in Amsterdam at the Gallery Reflex.
I shared her work with friends and the reactions are diverse but none are indifferent. Her art is timely, relevant and fun. I believe she pushes the boundaries of what is considered Art, a bit further and simultaneously helps advance the place of women in culture. Quite an accomplishment!
Art is a continuum and Helen Beard played with appropriation in this personal interpretation of the famous cut outs of Matisse
Screen Shot 2019-11-10 at 9.34.38 AM

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