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Artists CV    artwork
Helen McKenna-Menges

Helen’s work comes directly from the senses.

Growing up close to the Lake District by the sea on the Solway Firth as part of a close rural community, Helen was free to explore the wild and earthy countryside and coastline that forms the basis of many of her defining landscapes. Her instinctive responses to its natural energy and beauty as a child fuel her painting today, giving it a raw immediacy.

Living amid the harsh elemental contrasts and eerie isolation of such a dramatic landscape, where each moment presents a constantly changing scene, Helen noticed early in her life how light changes with the weather, and how this is instantly reflected in the changing colours in the hills or the shimmer on the sea.

Holidays as a child were spent along the wide watery expanses of Scotland’s west coast, and more recently Helen has developed an affinity with Cornwall. Significantly it is the sea that is the predominant theme of her landscape work.

LANDSCAPES

‘Evoking the feel of a place…’

Whether wild, vivid and bold, or mysterious and still, Helen’s canvases reflect a visceral understanding of the natural forces and history of her subject. Her experiences of nature’s sensual physicality and its contrasts - the dynamics of sun and wind, light and shadow, skies and seas, and their relationship to one another, are apparent in her painting.

Sensitivity to the individual magic of favourite places, how they are shaped not just by natural forces, but by local folklore and those who have gone before, also leave their mark on her vision. Through her interpreting eye, Helen captures a transient moment while offering glimpses of moments long gone.

FIGURE and ANIMAL STUDIES

‘In search of the soul’

Capturing living vitality and holding it on canvas is also the inspiration for Helen’s portrait painting. By exploring the way in which the forces of surroundings and the mood of a subject interplay, she works to evoke individualism and personality. In her studies of both people and animals, she recognizes the revealing subtleties that define character – the tactile physicality of soft skin, fur or hair, or firmness of muscle tone, that work together with pose and expression to evoke a familiar likeness. Through close observation, Helen strives to fix pictorially both the physicality and spirituality of natural magnetism.

Foundation course : Cumbria College of Art and Design
Fine Art and Art history Joint Honours Degree : Goldsmiths College, London University.

Helen is married with three children and lives in rural Kent.



Exhibitions:
August 2001 The Gallery, Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells “Naked” joint figurative exhibition
December 2001 ArtWorks Gallery, Sevenoaks
December 2002 ArtWorks Gallery, Sevenoaks
November 2002 Art at Watstock
June 2003 South East Open Studios
October 2004 Art at Watstock
October 2004 Port Gaverne Hotel, c/o Cliffside Gallery Port Isaac
August 2005 Up-Front Gallery, Hutton-in-the-Forest, Cumbria
October 2005 Lowood Gallery, Armathwaite, Cumbria
June 2006 South East Open Studios
November 2008 joined Eden Valley Artists
January 2009 Set up art school at Chiddingstone Castle
November 2009 Group exhibition with EVA
March 2010 Group Exhibition at Tophoto Gallery, Edenbridge
May 2011 Group Exhibition Flavour Cafe, Forest Row