Meet Helen Wiese, an emerging artist and all-around amazing person
Helen and I met back in 2010 when our kids first started school. We have become friends, and I’ve been thanking my lucky stars ever since, as she is the kind of friend everyone loves to have: generous, kind, supportive and fun. She is my go-to person in a crisis, my shoulder to cry on and my ear to vent off.
Helen is also the girl of many talents. She can weld a fire pit, sew a costume for a book parade and host a dinner party all in one day. But her true passion is her art. Helen is an abstract painter whose paintings are a visual expression of her past and present, her memories and deep-held emotions in texture and colour. They seem simple at first, but the more you look at them, the more surprising layers they reveal, and degree of detail that hints at a great deal of thought and labour.
Although her visual language is still evolving, Helen’s talent is undeniable. I hope that it will shine through this unpretentious, honest and heart-warming interview, where Helen talks about her background, her creative process and what inspires her.
Tell me a little about yourself.
I grew up on my parents’ property in rural NSW with my two brothers. Our childhoods were fortunate. We could enjoy space, we had freedom to explore, drove the trucks and tractors, rode bikes, and helped with the day-to-day farm activities and chores. However, life on the farm was not always easy. We made mistakes and lots of them, but we learnt resilience and self-sufficiency that make us who we are today.
I now live in Sydney with my husband, two children and a big, friendly golden retriever. Life is busy and a roller coaster ride filled with many school, family, sport, work and social commitments. There is never a dull moment… but perhaps I could do with one every once in a while!
What is your background?
Once I finished school I went on to study and work in nursing, predominantly in Cancer Services. After taking some time off when my two children started school, I found that I needed a change from nursing and decided to follow my yearning for a more creative avenue by studying Surface Design at the International School of Colour and Design.
How did you become an artist?
Following a family tragedy, I remember feeling incredibly lost and helpless. After some time I recall sitting down with some inks and a canvas and just started to let the ink respond to the ebb and flow of my emotions.
To be totally immersed for hours doing something that could calm my soul at my most vulnerable time… that was my turning point.
How did you get where you are today?
By taking a leap of faith and trying my hand at something new. I knew something had to change in my life and there comes a time when you just know you need to mix it up a bit.
What does being creative mean to you?
Freedom. To be able to express yourself in whichever way you can is freedom. To me that is such a wonderful gift.
What inspires you?
Everywhere you turn in nature, there are the most amazing colours, textures and patterns. I am also constantly amazed and inspired by the creativity, compassion and kindness of people around me.
What is the best part about your work?
Being able to express myself freely and honestly.
What tools and materials do you use?
I use a variety of tools including oils, acrylics, inks, gouache, graphite, and charcoal. I am a bit of a gatherer though. Having grown up on a farm, I am often found fossicking through and collecting objects that have been discarded, now weathered, worn, and forgotten. This is much to the annoyance of my father, who sometimes later looks for that very object for his next job, or my husband who puts up with me dragging countless objects back to our home for inspiration.
What is the main challenge you face when beginning a painting?
Finding a block of time when I know I can focus without interruption.
At what point in the process of the painting do you begin to feel like the painting is almost completed?
I guess it depends on what I am trying to achieve. But often it is when I know I can sit back and feel a sense of balance or harmony, or I know I can capture and hold the audience’s attention or I know I have given all that I can physically or emotionally.
“Meet Me After 10”
What are you trying to communicate with your art?
That’s a tricky one for me because there is usually a story behind the artwork for me and I find a lot of people are interested in the story. But at the same time, I want to grab the viewer’s attention and encourage them to be able to find their own connection through their emotions and experiences.
How has painting influenced your life?
I am fortunate that my family support me in following this path. Painting has been a way for me to re-centre myself, explore my thoughts, emotions, and creativity. It has been a roller coaster ride with many highs and lows, but it has also been incredibly rewarding.
“It’s the Quiet Ones”
Does your work reflect who you are?
Yes I believe it does to a certain extent. I do tend to make quite a mess when I paint, so I suspect my family will definitely agree with that element!
However, there are many layers, adding and scraping back of layers, colours, textures, and warmth that is grounding to me. It’s akin to the healing process, full of emotion, vulnerabilities, resilience and strengths that we call on in our lives… but I hope I hold a few more surprises up my sleeve!
Do you have any artworks in your home?
You have been speaking to my family! My home is full of artwork by my children and myself…there is no room left alone!
“Let Me Love You”
What is the style of your home?
Messy and lived in eclectic.
What are your favourite design inspiration sources?
Going for a walk each day…I love seeing people’s creativity around the neighbourhood and spending time outdoors..in the park, on the family farm, shopping etc. We are incredibly lucky to have such a diverse array of inspiration around us.
I am most likely showing my age, but I am pretty terrible at social media. I now use instagram, and am slowly working on a website, but to be honest..I do love a quiet corner, a good magazine and a cup of tea.
Who are your favourite artists?
I’m not sure I have an absolute favourite and there are just so many fabulous artists.
Apart from many of the classics, I do enjoy the works of Gerhard Richter, Albert Oehlen and Alberto Burri, which I was fortunate enough to see the at the Guggenheim in NY a few years ago.
Do you do commission work?
Yes I have done commission works, but I love the freedom of following my own instincts.
“Fandangle 1 and 2”
What are your goals for the future?
Oh where do I start, that’s a hard question.…I have a long list of things that NEED to be done..I just don’t always like doing them!
Paint…continue to grow as an artist, to challenge myself and explore different creative delights lurking within…maybe I will try my hand at welding!
Mostly though, I want to enjoy my time with my family and if the opportunity arises I would like to do more travel.
Describe yourself in one word? Why is this word?
I think my husband may have several…so it is lucky you are asking me!
Actually…I’m not too sure I can answer that. Warm… perhaps.
“Circus Comes to Town”
What are the three things that never fail to bring you pleasure?
The sound of my children’s laughter (as long as it is not at my expense), a wink from my husband, and nature at its kindest.
What is one thing people don’t know about you?
Mmm…a girl has to keep a few secrets you know.
Arrange to pop into Verve Interior Design Centre, to see Helens currently displays works. The only place in Sydney where you can do this!!!
If you want to connect with Helen and find out more about her work, please check her Instagram feed @helenwieseart