For Helga Groves, the first step in creating a new body of work is to seek out a pristine natural environment. In this case it is Wilsons Promontory, located on the far eastern tip of Victoria. In a practice that spans more than thirty years, Groves’ artistic endeavour is not to replicate nature. Instead, the experience of “specific elements within the macroscopic environment” works as a springboard for a sustained investigation, both academic and aesthetic.
Helga Groves engages here with the processes of abstract painting, drawing, collage and animation to explore geomorphic movement and the natural phenomena of lichen. The exhibition forms part of a broader investigation of lichen from the two extremes of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
The nine paintings from the Optical Terrane series each consist of a heptagonal surface of wax, pigment and medium on board. These irregularly shaped supports are a defining feature of the non-objective tradition and were applied to maximum effect by Imi Knoebel in the 1977 tribute 24 colours for Blinky. In Groves’ case, the heptagonal boards also suggest the natural form of a rotating rock. It is a conundrum the artist revisits again and again: how to interpret nature through the methods and tools of non-objective abstraction.
Elsewhere in the exhibition, Macro Terrane consists of folded pigment prints of the original photographs from Wilson’s Promontory. The geometric configuration of three interlocking diamonds consists of multiple folded squares.
In the paintings, the sequential positioning implies clockwise movement through the rotation of the work. Conversely, in an animation of a two second rotation of rocks entitled Leap Seconds, the orientation is counter-clockwise. Nearby, in a sequence of the delicately drawn Icelandic lava rocks that are also the subject of the animation, twenty-four works on paper are embedded within concertina books. The significance of the number twenty-four as required for rotations per second in an animation and hours in a day is used here to indicate extreme shifts of time.
When an artist navigates the ends of the earth to source materials, it follows that there will be striking shifts in time and space manifested in the work. Rotation, and its metaphorical relationship with the earth, is a strong factor in the development of the exhibition.
Through the expansive use of materials and shifting implications of time, the exhibition is a highly attuned sensory experience. Echoing the very structure of lichen, this project is itself a symbiosis of nature and aesthetics.
Excerpts from essay by Jane O’Neill July 2015.
Helga GROVES: Curriculum Vitae
Born 1961 Ayr, Queensland, Australia
2000 Master of Arts (Visual Arts), Sydney College of the Arts, Sydney
1988 Graduate Diploma (Visual Arts), Sydney College of the Arts, Sydney
1987 Bachelor of Arts (Visual Arts), Sydney College of the Arts, Sydney
2014 Suspended Animation, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne
2013 Geomorphic, Milani Gallery, Brisbane
2011 Looking through an ocean of air, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne
Turning sky into stone, Milani Gallery, Brisbane
2009 Microclimate, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne
2008 Chance elements, Milani Gallery, Brisbane Divining Water, Gitte Weise Gallery, Berlin
2007 Below Sea Level, Sutton Gallery Melbourne
2006 Landforms, Bellas Milani Gallery, Brisbane
2005 Geophysical Space, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne
2004 Subterranean Series, Bellas Milani Gallery, Brisbane
2003 Meltwater II, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne
Gitte Weise Gallery, Sydney
Bellas Gallery, Brisbane
2002 Increments and Shadows, Gitte Weise Gallery, Sydney
2001 New works from the SHADOW series, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne
Bellas Gallery, Brisbane
2000 Gitte Weise Gallery, Sydney
1999 Small Works on Paper, Bellas Gallery, Brisbane 1999 Evanescence, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne
1998 Midnight Sun, Bellas Gallery, Brisbane
Under a Pearl Moon, Gitte Weise Gallery, Sydney
Under a Pearl Moon, Baudoin Lebon, Paris, France
1997 Seven Popular Shapes, Room 35, Sydney
1996 Water from the Red River, KUNST, Sydney
1995 Studio Exhibition, Hanoi Institute of Fine Arts, Vietnam
Diamond Paintings, CBD Gallery, Sydney
1994 Frisson, KUNST, Sydney
1993 After Rain, KUNST, Sydney
1992 KUNST, Sydney
Less than Perpendicular, KUNST (window), Sydney
1991 Cutting from Soft Stone, First Draft West, Sydney
1990 Before During and After, First Draft West, Sydney
Sunflowers, Foyer Gallery, University of Western Sydney, Sydney
1989 Imitation of Art, W.I.N.D.O.W., Sydney
Moreland City Council
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth Artbank, Sydney
Federal Court of Australia
Goldman Sachs JBWere, Sydney Lady Cilento Children's Hospital Leeuwin Estate, Perth
Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne National Gallery of Australia, Canberra National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Private Collections
Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane RACV, Melbourne
University of Western Sydney, Nepean
2014 Eve Sullivan, Suspended Animation, Exhibition essay
2013 Eve Sullivan, Geomorphic, Exhibition essay
2012 Samantha Littley, ‘Walking On Air’, NEWv2: Selected recent acquisitions 2009–2011,
UQ Art Museum, The University of Queensland, Brisbane.
2011 Doug Hall, ‘Helga Groves’ Age of Reason’, exhibition essay to accompany Looking
through an ocean of air, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne.
Dan Rule, ‘Helga Groves: Looking through an ocean of air’, The Age: Life and Style, 8 Oct, p.5.
2009 Jonathan Nichols, Altitude: A conversation between Jonathan Nichols and Helga Groves.
2008 Zara Stanhope, Chance Elements, exhibition essay. Zara Stanhope, Divining Water, exhibition essay.
2007 Penny Webb, ‘Sightlines’, The Age, 20 July. Ingrid Periz, Below Sea Level, catalogue essay.
2006 David M. Thomas, Personal Other Worlds, catalogue essay, Canberra Contemporary Art Space.
Contemporary: Art Gallery of New South Wales Contemporary Collection, Collection Handbook.
Ingrid Periz, Landforms, catalogue essay.
2005 Ingrid Periz, Geophysical Space, catalogue essay.
2004 Michele Helmrich, Fenestrations of Darkness and Light and Endless Becoming,
2003 Tanya Peterson, ‘Liquid Light’, Art & Australia, vol. 40, no.3, 2003, pp.426-435.
Alexie Glass, Meltwater, exhibition essay.