Helen Steele

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Meet Helen Steele in her video!

People intrigue Helen Steele, their interior lives color her canvases. Her paintings are emotional and her subjects can present both a presence and an absence. Her recurrent themes are: connection, identity, intuition, moments in time and crossroads.

Helen Steele

ARTIST STATEMENT

"my compositions are never preconceived, yet my themes are recurrent:

the use of the figure as the means of investigating various psychological states: harmony, serenity, anxiety, isolation....

the figure is my starting point, not my true subject.

my subjects are human presence and absence.

my approach is intuitive, suggesting rather than detailing.

as i work and rework my canvas the image appears sometimes only to elude me then to reassert itself much later.

i work in multiple layers with buried images and words. paint is wiped off and layers are peeled yielding the emerging image.

symbolic markings, personal imagery, shapes and words appear, questions arise.

intimacy is translated through the sensuality of line, the simplest and subtlest of my tools. the line can be bold and assertive or sublime and quite sensual."

ARTIST BIOGRAPHY

People intrigue Helen Steele, their interior lives color her canvases. Her paintings are emotional and her subjects can present both a presence and an absence. She is an intuitive and loose painter who suggests a context without detailing it. Her figures are an expression of the human condition and they act as a tool for Steele to explore a wide range of feelings - fragility, isolation, freedom, exuberance, harmony and serenity. The emotional content of her work is built into her many layers of luminous color; intimacy is achieved through the sensuality of line, the simplest and subtlest of Steele’s tools. The line can be bold and assertive or sublime and quite sensual.

Steele’s process includes building texture using layers of paint and glazes, opaque and transparent. Possibly adding random material like fabric, paper or cement - she enjoys using her hands, stiff brushes, rags and other things in her studio that speak to whatever she’s working on. She generally works on several pieces at once, using her whole body and moving from piece to piece, often laying down big fields of color and using wet rags to wipe clear layers underneath. She likens her active work style to a moving meditation.

Born in Germany, Steele grew up “very much an outsider”. Mainly raised by her Buddhist grandmother who taught her about art and without a television, she began drawing and painting early. Both her grandparents were accomplished painters, her father and her brother, also painters, were further influences. Her home was always filled with art, music and poetry.

Her recurrent themes are: connection, identity, intuition, moments in time and crossroads.

Her many art influences include: expressionism and palette Emil Nolde and Mark Rothko; impressionism and palette Van Gogh; for texture paintings by Tapies, Anselm Kiefer, Rauschenberg; for gesture work and mark making the ink drawings of Zen Buddhists, Motherwell and Kline; for content the lyrical Paul Klee, Inez Storer and Squeak Carnwarth. Figurative work always the Bay Area figurative group, foremost Nathan Oliveira, Joan Brown and Manuel Neri.