Helen Grove-White’s artistic practice explores bodily relationships to the environment using personal experience as a reference. Her ongoing preoccupations have been concerned with walking and swimming, linking her to both the land and sea. Sea Breathing is at once contemplative and meditative, focusing on the human breath as the ultimate expression of our being.
Sea Breathing is an installation by North Anglesey based artist Helen Grove-White that merges the sculptural with the filmic; a white shirt hung within the gallery space intercepts a projection. Like the tide, the film is repetitive and envelops the viewer and tries to locate a meeting point where body and nature convene both conceptually and physically. The installation approaches a sense of ‘oneness’. The rhythms of nature are echoed in the sound of the artist’s breath – the most basic of human life force.
Grove-White is drawn to a making process situated in context. Her studio is in North Anglesey close to its rugged coastline where she is a regular sea bather. For the artist the sea is deeply rooted in the minds of any islander, she is ‘close to the edge’ because she is so far from the mainland. This geographical aspect fills her work with a sense of individuality and at times isolation. North Anglesey traditionally referred to as ‘Môn Mam Cymru’, the ‘Mother of Wales’, provides a parallel context for the work. The ground of North Anglesey was once believed to be fertile enough to produce enough food for the whole of Wales. The island as a prosperous natural expanse is a theme the artist continues.
Grove-White often works in black and white; this might be seen to indicate a duality – the pursuits of man on one side and nature on the other. In earlier work she sought to convey bodily experiences of the land and the sea. Much of this has focused on the actions of walking and swimming. Her solo show in 2007 at Bollington Arts Centre, entitled ‘Contact’ centered on works exploring the interface between the body and the land. One can link this to a tradition of feminist essentialist artists such as Ana Mendieta or the installations of Anthony Gormley, a desire to embrace the land and be embraced by it.
Sea Breathing is a departure point for a new emphasis in Grove-White’s overall practice. The artist’s forthcoming body of work is increasingly concerned with the environment and its changing state. She was recently awarded funding by the Arts Council of Wales for a project entitled ‘On the Brink’. This project explores the projected rise in sea level as a result of climate change and has developed into something of an exploration of islands, themselves products of past rises in sea level. The artist has spent time working on Ynys Enlli, situated off the Llyn Peninsula a favored place for artist residencies. Here she is witness to the palpable processes of environmental change endeavoring to connect these shifts to that of individual human experience.
*In 2009 the In Focus space changed its name to Test Bed.
Supporting new and experimental work by artists based in Wales and the Borders.