HELEN G BLAKE, New Paintings, Fenderesky Gallery Belfast, 26 April – 18 May 2018

Marky Sparky, oil on linen, 2018, 14 x 17 cm

Fourteen images each  in one of three sizes favoured by Blake for years now –  are beautifully displayed in a gentle embrace of pristine white walls.

L-R: Sweets for Hetty and Ted, 2014, 32 x 26 cm ;Baby Blanket, 2018, 14 x 17 cm; Waves, 2018, 17 x 14 cm


They are reminiscent of abstract paintings rewarded in 2006 by the Turner Price for “…vigorous and consistent approach to painting”. Tomma Abts (b 1967) uses consistently a format of 48 x 38 centimetres in acrylic and oil paint. This is a detail from her  Heit, 2011, Arts Council Collection.

The following was written about Abts and seems to embrace Blake’s work seamlessly.

“Planes that appear to be located in the foreground also remain embedded within the structure of the painting itself; shapes are both overlapping and integrated. Abstract elements might hover on the edge of representation but are then undermined by an incongruous perspective or colour scheme.”

L-R: Peace and Time, 2018, 45 x 36 cm; XXXXX, 2018, 32 x 26 cm

L – R: Building, 2018, 45 x 36 cm; Peace and Time as above

The incongruous perspective clashes with titles that associate with habitual meaning, like building or blanket and is completely free of any  when title holds abstraction of verbal kind, like peace, time …  There is a reason for both – to force  or deny association by selecting  particular  words to name the image. But with abstraction such a link  is a treacherous condition, a sort of penalty,   as those words injure the visual marvel of incongruity falling into a whole tacitly.

Life in Winter, 2018, 36 x 45 cm; Sentinel, 2017, 32 x 26 cm

Installation view.

Blake trusts her sense for contrast in tonality and repetitiveness in shapes, something well rehearsed in history of art and design, born in the laws of  optical  perception  and illusion.  Accent is on seeing.

L-R: All the Yeses, 2018; Blanket, 2017; Cake, 2018; all 26 x 32 cm

L-R: Rill and Still Pool, 2018; Lodgers, 2018. both 32 x 26 cm


Each is an image that stands for itself, sparingly referring to something outside the visible, like the tactile value in the Baby Blanket.  They share luminosity and strict denial  of a  reason coming from outside the painting itself.  This hard nosed autonomy  does not fit the ubiquitous demand for art to achieve something outside itself,  like health or elimination of violence. Nevertheless, each and all of these unassuming private messengers  insists on moral standards as those are subsumed in the aesthetics.  Nihil novum sub sole: the classical Greece understood that in their thinking as kalos agathos.

Liking one of Blake’s oil on linen, elevates you from your mundane habitus – into  imagined harmony, your own.  The painting is the trigger. Being abstract it houses numerous ways to succeed, given the chance.  Play is  these paintings intrinsic and instrumental value.  Similar to music in that way.


Images courtesy Helen G Blake, uploaded from her Facebook page,  these are only to remind you/me what each looked like.


About Slavka Sverakova

writer on art
This entry was posted in essay, review. Bookmark the permalink.

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