“Art from the pen”: An exhibition of magic and whimsy

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When the opportunity to interview artist Helen Gibson, or perhaps better known through her alias as The Perky Painter, presented itself I was keen to visit the Arch Café once more. I first met Helen last year at the Arch Café, when she was exhibiting as part of the Love Arts Festival. I was fortunate enough to witness a slight snapshot of her dandelion collection, which is the series currently on display in the café. The abstract colour and form of Helen’s work, the sheer simplicity of the magic is truly phenomenal. The exhibition installed at the Café represents a small but fantastic part of Helen’s work as an artist. The dandelion series is a colourful, emotive expression that plays on the light and texture of the acrylic Helen uses.

‘Bloom’ by Helen Gibson

“I paint with big arm gestures, long colourful strokes,” She explains. “It’s a personal process for me, one that I find fulfilling and one that I love sharing with people. It’s instinctual and natural and completely experimental – it’s art from the pen.” The collection itself, Helen continued, “Is about being timeless, being completely free of all expectation and burden. There is a purity and innocence and joy when you’re a child, and I really wanted to capture that feeling of exhilaration, the feeling of running when nothing matters but that single moment. The stresses and responsibilities of adulthood fall away and suddenly, you can enjoy life again and see it through the freedom of being a child.”

‘Whispers’ by Helen Gibson

There are slight variations between the dandelion collection, some painted in a theoretical spring versus the ones in a theoretical summer, the cooler shades contrasting with the warmer, brighter tones. Helen’s dandelion works follow the three stages of the plant’s life-cycle, from the yellow sunburst to the cloud of white, to the final explosion of the seeds. The exhibition’s entirety was a nostalgic experience, one filled with the light, adventure and sheer freedom of early childhood.

‘Opportunity’ by Helen Gibson

We also discussed the upcoming summer filled with art and sculpture through the Yorkshire Sculpture International Festival. “Any encouragement of the arts is great and it’s a chance for local artists because it’s getting people interested. It makes art more accessible, which can only be a good thing.” It’s important to note that alongside the newsworthy likes of Hirst’s sculptures and the festival itself, that it is smaller artists like Helen are the backbone and strength of the city. Her passion, exuberance and sheer talent is, for me, more worthwhile than any skinless horse.

‘Muchness’ by Helen Gibson

Helen’s future in the arts is as bright as the acrylics she uses. Her work is an exhilarating mix of passion and innocence and her current dandelion collection is one that has incredible abundance of the two. She is currently exhibiting at both the Arch Café and the Old Red Bus Station, but Helen has a wealth of talent waiting to be seen at the Horsforth Art Walk and the Kirkstall Art Trail in a few months.

By Stephanie Bennett

Images courtesy of Helen Gibson and Stephanie Bennett