Can you tell me about your practice?
My current series of works, developed during lockdown, are based on photographs of domestic curtains and digital stills of fabric, extracted from a film I had made for a VR project .Referencing the veiling and concealing of drapery in renaissance painting, I was drawn to the closeted, psychological space created by the curtains and fabric – the disconnection from what can’t be seen, the something or nothing beyond, had a particular resonance during the pandemic.
How do you get started on a piece of work?
The starting point for any work is always a photographic image or still from a film, found or my own. I have a large ever evolving bank of photos, screenshots and films. Some of these source images can remain on my studio wall for months or even years before I feel ready to work with them. There then comes a process of often forensic excavation and digital manipulation of the chosen images, yielding up isolated details and fragments, which are then, reassembled, rephotographed, and reimagined. Through this process I’m looking for something that might suggest moments of potential transformation, of dissolution or emergence, a sense of what Blanchot describes as being ‘unrevealed yet manifest.’ I make endless copies of the image, on different types of paper, using a basic printer, each producing all sorts of anomalies, depending on the frequently unreliable functionality of the machine, which help to inform the final work. The final stage involves hours of sifting through and staring at the host of photocopied reference, a good deal of indecision and procrastination, and then I can start painting!
Who are your biggest influences?
There are so many artists' work that I like and draw influence from – instagram has been great for discovering new artists and making connections, so I would say sources of influence are always evolving. But here are just some of the artists, film makers and writers that I keep coming back to: Van Eyck, Lucas Cranach, Giovanni Bellini; Gerhard Richter, Luc Tuymans, Vija Celmins, Phoebe Unwin, Toby Zeigler, Moyra Davey: Agnes Varda and Chantal Ackerman; Susan Sontag, Roland Barthes and W G Sebald.
Can you talk about the idea of fragmentation within your practice?
Yes, central to this idea is the notion of the elusive whole – that we are only ever dealing with fragments, gaps and discontinuities that shift in and out of view, on the edge of disappearance, particularly in regard to the workings of memory. Memory and its parallels in digital and analogue photographic processes have been an important theme in my work. Time works against memory. A photograph is a fragment itself of a moment in time and speaks to the fragility and tenuous anchorage we have on things. I am interested in the reassembling of fragments to create new meanings, what can be understood from the glimpses and traces and the extension of this fragmentation is the idea or the possibility and proximity of the ‘nothing’ that may be beyond the frame.
How important is material in your work?
Material in this case is paint and I think I have a conflicted love hate relationship with it. It is undeniably crucial to what I do, but I think I paint in a way that tries to disguise the fact that it's paint – using as little of it as possible, building up thin layers, stopping the moment the image emerges, removing any brush marks - a painterly distraction. Perhaps I’m kicking against the weight of painting’s history and tradition, and don’t entirely trust it in my hands, but it’s my chosen medium and the urge to push it in this way is overwhelming. It can be utterly magical when the work flows and comes together – coaxing and manipulating this material over a blank surface to conjure another reality. A good description of painting for me, although he wasn’t directly referring to it, was what Robert Morris described as ‘the mark gathering itself as a kind of membrane over absence’. Painting is a tangible material way of slowing time, taking the photographic moment and transforming it and taking it elsewhere in the present.
What is your most important tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
Apart from my mop brushes that I use for blending paint, it would have to be my laptop where a lot of the ideas for paintings are worked on and my gloriously unreliable printer whose unpredictable functioning throws out interesting reminders that the image is just a surface deep arrangement of pigment.
Can you give us a book recommendation that has been important in your practice? And tell us why it’s important.
Camera Lucida, by Roland Barthes and On Photography by Susan Sontag, seminal works familiar to many, were pivotal in shaping my thinking and practice, and I think are still the best writing on our relationship with the photograph. I’ve reread both books many times and they were particularly influential while making a body of work consisting of 35 paintings and a film from a single analogue photograph, for a solo exhibition: Delayed Rays of a Star 2018, (the title was taken from Barthes quoting Sontag in Camera Lucida.)
Finally, is there anything new coming up that you would like to tell us about?
After a year working as Research Fellow at the Art Institute at Bath Spa University, I am back in the studio developing a new body of paintings, which I hope to be showing in the not too distant future.
Website link: https://helenkincaid.co.uk/
All images are courtesy of the artist:
1. Untitled 2021, 30 x 40 cm, Oil on linen
2. Drawn l 2021, 30 x 40 cm, Oil on Linen
3.Untiled 2021, 30 x 40 cm Oil on linen.
4. Fold Vl 2021, 30 x 40 cm, Oil on linen.
5. Untitled 2021, 35 x 40 cm, Oil on linen.
6. Untitled ( Blank) 2021, 30 x 40 cm, Oil on linen.
7. Fold l 2020, 30 x 40 cm, Oil on linen.