British artist Helen Sear's series Beyond the View was featured in issue 203 of Aperture magazine, in which Jason Evans notes that often she seems to be “an installation artist who goes as far into a space as you can while remaining two-dimensional.” Her work demands participation by the viewer, as we try to “read” an increasingly ambiguous picture that meshes “visual and cultural theory.” “I like things to be complicated,” she says. “I want to raise questions.”
States the artist: “The pictures are made up of the combination of two photographs, one superimposed over the other in the computer. I erase part of the top image through a process of ‘drawing’ with a pen and tablet across the whole surface of the image. The women turning away and the landscapes were initially referring to the northern romantic tradition of painting, where the figure is often pictured immersed in the landscape. The images are also an attempt to consider a gendered perspective in relation to the history of landscape photography. The lines/marks of the hand drawing create a visual noise on the surface of the photograph. One half of the image is erased to partially reveal the other; neither are seen in their entirety.
“The process of enmeshing the two images together with the hand drawing collapses the traditional distance in photography between the viewer and the view, and also extends the photographic moment. It brings the image close to the surface of the eye. I was interested to discover the word for retina in German is Netzhaut, which is also a net or a trap. These women are in some way also trapped in the landscape. The marks I am making while erasing are similar to a net, whether lace associated with handicraft or a hand-drawn line reminiscent of the screen of the computer or a loom. I am working in a montage tradition, but the intervention and touch between images is more of a caress than a cut associated with collage. I want the elements of the image to be inseparable.”
Helen Sear was born in 1955 in the UK and studied Fine Art at the Slade School of Art, London, and Reading University. She works in digital media, both photography and film, and has been exhibited extensively in the UK as well as abroad. Recent exhibitions have been at Zinc Gallery, Stockholm, Axel Thieme Galerie, Damstadt, Germany, Yard Gallery in Nottingham, England, and Gallery Harmonia in Jyvaskyla, Finland. Sear is represented by Klompching Gallery, New York. She lives and works in Wales, UK.