Creatives of Sheffield: Helen Barker
Right now I’m back painting because, basically, I took a bit of break from making art when I had my daughter - but she’s 18 months old now so I feel like I’m ready to get back into it.
I’ve found it really great because I’ve returned more productive than I ever was - I’m using my time so much better now. As a result my work has changed quite dramatically. I’ve even changed the medium that I use. I used to paint with oils all the time but I’ve switched to water based medium which has really altered my style and allowed me to get much quicker.
I’d say there’s probably two strands to my work that I’m exploring right now and I’m very much enjoying this really productive phase I’ve found myself in. One of my ‘things’ at the minute is looking at local spaces and the other is these imagined spaces.
I moved back to Sheffield in 2012 and I felt quite estranged from a lot of the architecture and spaces when I first came back. I grew up here so a lot of my work at the minute is just about looking at the city from a brand new perspective.
I’ve decided to start with pretty well known spaces just because it’s easier to focus my attentions there, so the Arts Tower, Park Hill Flats - places I’ve seen represented commercially within the city but that I never really felt connected to when I lived here.
I’m quite a messy worker, I use photos sometimes but I mainly work from memory so my pieces aren’t necessarily representational or realistic.
I have a background in more performative and conceptual arts and I used to make film and video quite a lot so I’ve started making little films about my work. It’s a way to share what I’m doing with people and connect in a tangible way at the same time. I work from home quite a lot and don’t get to see loads of people - which can be quite isolating. The videos are a good shortcut around that.
I really want to push my Sheffield themed paintings and I’ve always been interested in post apocalyptic fiction so I’d like to take these iconic buildings and spaces in Sheffield and bring more nature into them. These buildings have always felt a little misplaced to me so I think I’m trying to position them somewhere new.