Helena Hamilton, Semblance and Event, Millennium Court Arts Centre, Portadown, 7April -23 May 2018

Untitled(with) Edition of 36, interactive sound sculpture, 2018; Order, Effect 01 and 02, Paper, 2018. photo credit Simon Mills

Light.  Invitation to unthink the familiarity of the tube lights, the inevitability of a particular use.  Standing near it, watching, looking, walking around, near and away,   reminded me of  Keyezua’s  recent comment on her photographies:

“After finishing at the Royal Academy of Arts, I decided that I do not have to care about my decisions as an artist,” explains Keyezua, who is based in Luanda, Angola. “It felt good to have the freedom to do something without having a certain idea why you were creating it.”

Both the light tube construction and the paper “reliefs on the back wall evoke that freedom.


Does their not- too- shy- energy  transform the space?

from left: Order,Effect 01; Order,Effect 02, both paper, 2018; Untitled (with), edition of 36;Interactive sound sculpture, 2018, Credit Simon Mills.

In proportion to the space this open “volume”  commands attention effortlessly. Perhaps the significance of the question  “how many?”  will shed any assumed irrelevance when the eye compares the “36” edition with a fewer light tubes.

The Agency Gallery London, 17 February 0 1 April 2018

This is an earlier variant in a smaller space, yet, the  wordless eloquence feeds imagination  as well as  the version with  many more tubes.  It parallels the difference between an orchestra and a chamber music – and similarly, in both  cases the aesthetic power is independent of the number of instruments.  An aria and a chorus?

The vertical  tube standing firmly  upright, while the other two are in a free fall,  not only anchors the moment of  movement, it also enters into a dialogues with the other verticals in the visual field, i.e. walls.  thus providing a spontaneous belonging, not so much to a hierarchy, as to  revelation of what may occur next.  Dance? Fall? Nothing?

The  light tubes as they navigate space,   share something with Vikings.  Those sailors used calcite’s power to reveal the light patterns in the sky, that exist even in overcast weather.  T The  light tubes reveal spots,  stains on floor, walls and ceiling, light patterns  that change as I walk around.  Visual art favours its appeal as a transformer of perception of space.  Hamilton invites the  sound to contribute. I found it superfluous for this installation.    Reminds me of horror vacui, which is, after all, governing  some of her  earlier work, where she covers every surface with variety of marks and patterns,


Drawing performance at PS Square, Belfast

Whereas in Semblance and Event  she timed her  drawing performance to shorter duration, wore a paper bag over her head,  and recorded it on a video.

NOTETOADISTANTGOD, 2 hour performance, 2010- 2018

Hamilton’s tumultuous outpouring  favours luxurious outburst and invites  vacuous pauses as if to interact.  Visible and imagined wait for the sound. The sound then  dominates the large  projection of gesture tracking, mark making on acetate sheets over the  glass surface of overhead projector.

A still from the Butterflies, 2014

On the adjacent wall,  a large number of acetate  sheets with such drawings produced between 2014 -2018, a growing archive, are deliberately losing visibility.  Like Eva Hesse, Hamilton hangs them in a row, making the drawing hardly accessible to an eye.

Her performances, on the other hand,  zoom on the surface of the walls  as a received ground, and make every details accessible.   There are two photographic prints (2016) that also call for near viewing involving private thoughts.

Two ink drawings on paper (2014 and 2016) confirm, in this installation,  her acceptance of  more traditional way of making images.

However, the arrogance of sensory and hedonistic pleasure from tactile values  inspires two of hers  not so ordinary paper reliefs. They are just about visible in the  image i repeat here (I  used it above)


In an earlier  installation, which is lit up  to reveal a little more of the detailing. The paper is squashed in irregular  interaction of push and pull, a very rare technique. Invented technique – in comparison with origami, this is wild.  Paper’s integrity is respected by unusual dexterity of – I assume – hand and fingers.

Order, Effect, Art Centre, Tokyo, 2016


I do not see her practice as crossing borders between “…object, digital interaction and action/performance…”(see gallery handout) simply because all are objects, more or less durational.   The sound,  light. movement, timing etc  are added to objects found, received or resulting of action, space and time included. In addition there is the  control by the viewer as moving object about angles of viewing,  time of the perception, attention to detail.  Light and shadows, stasis and movements appear to be the the grounding matrix,   central to Hamilton’s courage to invent.

Even if accidental, the  reflection on the floor gives aesthetic experience distantly belonging the the exhibit. A chance for the beauty to join the mundane.

The gallery notes offer a startling summary for Semblance and Event:  ” …(it) seeks to draw together old and new works that will bring into dialogue stark and austere examination of materials and matter with processes of making that resemble ascetic practices of repetition.”

That is an insider’s view that does not matter to the incidental aesthetic experience of looking, walking around, listening and looking again.  The installations offered some poetic passages and some hard nosed rejection of such a fanciful expectation.  The sound was so feeble in the main gallery, that it called for a search. In the second gallery, the added noise to the expected sound of the tip pen on acetate at times overwhelmed the visual tacit components.   As if to soothe that  hanging in parallel in a right angle to the wall , that prevents seeing the whole drawing,  the flicker of light on the hangers  is pure poetry. I believe it was deliberate to set the spot lights so, that they transformed dark clasps into two  patterns of light paths that meet in the middle of the projected curve while disappearing there.  Beautiful.

Images courtesy Helena Hamilton’s website and Facebook page.


About Slavka Sverakova

writer on art
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