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  Helen Fuller

Dirndl Patterns 2004

Patterns of domestic life and the ordinary underlie Helen’s current work. These works on paper emerged from memories of cotton fabrics encountered in the dirndl skirt sewing projects of early childhood and her paternal grandmother’s (Lily Viola Maud) gingham cross stitched aprons. Helen’s tactile relationship with cloth and paper link to her formative 1950’s childhood education. Perfecting the domestic arts and the craft of cursive handwriting fuelled creative pursuits.

In 1993 Helen was the first recipient of the Asialink residency in Hangzhou at one of China’s renown fine art academies. The broken surfaces and textures of Hangzhou architecture and the suspended washing hung in the streets, impacted her work. Helen also began working on Chinese rice paper with gouache. The Chinese rice paper when wet and sodden with pigment becomes like a vulnerable aged skin, easily damaged or destroyed. When dry it toughens again but becomes slightly more brittle; holes and tears stay as scarred perforations (wounds) or are mended and patched just like the paper Chinese screen windows at the edges of Hangzhou’s streets. The painted lines might be the tortured threads that mended the work clothes seen hanging from the Hangzou street trees in winter. The vertical and horizontal lines shift from warp and weft of cloth to the format of eastern and western writing systems.

Helen’s paper work is a lateral slippage from her installation practice. In its making she recalls voices of teachers directing images to form according to methodologies of educational principles. Quinces according to Cezanne; grids according to Mondrian. The pupils might have been castigated for crooked lines, ill formed letter, smudges, accidental blots, rubbing outs, finger marks, stains or poorly paced needlework stitches. But these glitches might provide creative openings and absorb the accidental outcomes.