‘You Move Me’ Artist Interview: Helen Jones

As part of our current Antlers Gallery exhibition You Move Me for Winter 14/15 – we are releasing a series of blog interviews with each of the artists involved in the show.

In this latest instalment we caught up with Bristol-based artist Helen Jones – gaining insight into how she approached the You Move Me commission and hearing more about her dramatic works in the exhibition.

Studio photo - Helen Jones - 2014

Studio photo – Helen Jones – 2014

Describe your practice in three sentences.
I make tonal drawings – creating depth by adding lots of layers of pigment before taking this away again. For me it’s about reworking the image using rubbers and wire wool to give different textures and make it 3D. I want to create a sense of helplessness and present an almost frightening landscape.

What themes and ideas interest you?
I use the ‘tonking’ technique in a lot of my work, which was developed by Henry Tonks who taught at the Slade School of Art, London. It involves removing excess. Although this process was initially developed for oils I like the way it works for me in other mediums. The process gives different textures and recreates the sense of awe I use to feel as a child when my mother would put us on the roof of our car, high on a hill, to watch the thunder and lightening. I am drawn to the work of John Martin who creates dark landscapes, filled with hellish weather that depicts the rawness of nature – perhaps due to my memories from childhood.

How did you approach the You Move Me commission?
I intended to take a trip under the city in a boat but this wasn’t possible as it is too dangerous. Instead I looked at blogs of those who had managed to make it under. I was interested in how water had been manipulated, and the walls and pathways that had been built to make it turn in a certain way to fit in the with the needs of the city – rather than letting nature take its course.

What themes or interests does your commission explore?
I focused on the intervention of man with the River Frome. I wanted to show that despite human interference the river was still a powerful and epic part of nature. The drawings I created are actually two different imagined areas under the city – but when placed side by side they work together to create a sense of rhythm and flow.

What was the greatest challenge you faced in this commission?
My biggest challenge was working in a small studio. My wall is 8ft high and 4ft wide, and the paper I used for my commission is much bigger. I usually work in A0 size for commercial purposes, so I wanted to take a slightly different approach with the You Move Me commission – which freed me up to work larger-scale.

Studio photo - Helen Jones - 2014

Studio photo – Helen Jones – 2014


What has been the most interesting and/or surprising element of working on this commission?
The charcoal pigment from my pieces falling down and collecting at the bottom of my works was not what I had first imagined – as I envisaged the bottom of the pages remaining crisp white. However, this element is now something I really like as it reflects the grey concrete of the city.

What would you like the audiences experience of the work to be?
I would like them to really enjoy it! Ideally I’d like them to feel as excited by the exhibition as I am – and also to feel slightly on edge when viewing my work.

What would you like people to take away after seeing your work in the context of the exhibition?
I’d like them to walk away and think it was exciting. I hope to give the audience an insight that they’ll remember. Perhaps they will walk away imagining what is happening in the chaos of nature right now underneath them, underneath our city.


Helen Jones: http://www.antlersgallery.com/artist/helen-jones

Exhibition Dates: 29 Nov – 23 Dec 2014 // 5 – 10 Jan 2015

Open Times: Mon – Fri, 10am – 7pm // Sat – Sun, 12pm – 4pm

For the full programme of events please see our Project Page: http://www.antlersgallery.com/project/you-move-me

Join the conversation on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter with: #YouMoveMe / @AntlersGallery