While wandering around Afrikaanderwijk at PowWow Rotterdam this year, in a quiet corner of the park i found this… Which i later found out was ‘The Origami Tea House’ by Helen Proctor. Local
Turkish women meet here every day to talk over the local news and share a tea or coffee, and they can now do so surrounded by Helen’s bold and expressionistic designs adorning their walls
I was introduced to Helen by a friend while watching all the crews and individuals go to town on the variety of vehicles getting a facelift. We chatted about all things PowWow, her recent travels both physical and through the medium of art and as always…started to make plans for getting more paint on the streets in the future!
Hi Helen, thanks for taking the time to chat today.
So Pow Wow Rotterdam 2019… what was it like to be part of the festival this year?
POW WOW Rotterdam was such a great experience for me. I jumped on last minute so it was a bit of a whirlwind getting a design together and actually painting. The team really looked after us whilst we were there and mural festivals are always great for making friends with other painters from around the world. I now have a bunch of new couches to sleep on and new cities to paint in.
You describe your work as ‘Abstract Landscape’ painting, what first attracted you to this style?
I started painting landscapes around 4 years ago. After living in a city environment (Sydney, Australia) for ten years I was starting to feel myself more drawn to being in nature and the places and landscapes that I found special to me. I also wanted to explore colour and abstraction in my work, so landscapes were the perfect subject matter. I’m originally from a place called the Blue Mountains, which is known for it’s crazy natural formations. So for me nature is a nice theme to explore. I also like
the irony of a street artist painting landscapes. Landscape painting is usually reserved for ‘en plein air’ oil painters, so its not a subject matter that street artists explore a lot.
Connection with a place is a big thing, so do you pick the landscape or does the landscape often pick itself as you journey?
When I first started landscapes I chose the places that I was connected to. The Australian landscape has an energy to it that draws you in, I feel very connected to the places I grew up and spent my early years. I have mainly depicted scenes from Australia but after travelling around Europe I have really connected to different countries and landscapes. Iceland and the Faroe Islands was some of the most
amazing natural formations I have ever scene. The Isle of Skye also had some incredible places. I love to be in a place that looks surreal and shows the power of nature. Where humans are insignificant in comparison.
When you look at a scene real time, do your eyes start to break it down, almost like squinting, into a more abstract interoperation of what is before you or does that come later on in the process?
I usually work from my own photographs and sketch out the scenery. A lot of the time the perspectives are quite warped because I like to include all the things that stand out to me. The sharp lines and different tones is just the style I have always worked in, some people have traced it back to cutting stencils or my early days of writing graffiti. But for me it’s just what came out when I started painting.
Have you ever done portraiture in your style?
I worked in portraiture for most of my early career. My street art name was syke and I was known for large-scale portraits that usually depicted my friends. My early practice was portrait photography/painting and huge paste-ups and stencils on the street. I loved surprising my friends on the way to work with a huge image of them along the train tracks or around their neighbourhood. My dad found it less amusing when I put up a piece of him along the main road in our hometown.
So the big, or little question! What excites you more Big wall or little wall?
Big wall all the way! But painting any wall is fun.
And why is this?
Mural painting is always about making an impact. The bigger walls make more of an impact. You can usually try more things on a big wall also. It usually takes longer as well which means you get to spend more time hanging out with the locals and seeing the town. You become a part of the community.
Have you ever repeated a wall on a canvas or vice versa or do you see them as totally stand alone art forms that are not interchangeable?
Most of the walls I have done I have painted on a canvas first. I am getting better at doing digital mock ups but I can usually figure out a design a lot better on canvas.
Plans for 2020, what have you got coming up that you can tell us about?
Summer has hit over in Australia so I am a part of a couple of group shows back there in Sydney and Melbourne. I will also be going back there to paint a wall and get some beach time in January. For me 2020 is all about painting as many walls and festivals as possible, I’d like to come over and visit the UK a bit more. I recently travelled around the Scottish highlands and I would love to go back and do some murals or at least create a series based on the places I visited there.
We are super stoked to be working with Helen on some gallery and wild wall pieces this year so keep checking out what she gets up to here and on her website https://www.helenproctor.com/