Ellen Wynn

Watching 24-hour live media coverage of the 2010 Chilean miners’ rescue brought memories rushing back to fine artist Ellen Wynn.

Her father worked at Markham Colliery in Chesterfield when disaster struck the pit in 1973 and 18 of his colleagues lost their lives.

Footage of the Chilean rescue struck a chord with Ellen, who has been teaching at Hull School of Art and Design since 2004, and led her to develop theories about the idea of the spectacle in relation to disaster, rescue and her own artistic practice.

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Alongside her teaching practice in Critical and Theoretical Studies, Ellen practices fine art.

Ellen’s teaching has primarily centred on 3D design, graphics and architecture and she regularly attends lectures and exhibitions to update and extend her knowledge.

A fully trained architect, she practiced architecture before developing her interest in fine art.

Currently she is researching a follow-up to a 2002 one-woman show at Red Gallery, Inform.

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Inform 2 centres around TV coverage of the Chilean miners’ rescue.

For Inform, she combined newsprint and media imagery with everyday domestic items, thereby instilling the artworks with literal and figurative additional layers of meaning. At the time, Ellen said:

“By distorting or changing their expected context, household objects such as blankets, chairs and newspapers are transformed into works of art which aim to awaken an interest in the relevance of news in our routine lives and to question, even threaten, our domestic comfort zone.”

Now, she says:

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“Inform was partly a personal response to the media coverage of 9/11. Distant and ‘unlikely’ events create anxiety, fear and euphoria, which distort the core of our everyday reality”.

Poststructuralist and postmodernist theory runs through all of this work. Exploring the way events are mediated through our TV screens as an assumed reality is central to Inform 2.

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Craft in relation to fine art played and still plays a large role in her work. When she was young her mother worked from home as a milliner and curtain maker, and she taught Ellen to sew. The process of hand-stitching represents independence, comfort and control which form a strong juxtaposition with the subject matter she tackles.

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Inspired by her response to the Chilean miners’ rescue, she hopes to exhibit Inform 2 in 2015.

“This work will reference my early paintings,” Ellen says. “Using textile craft techniques to labour and ‘upholster’ the canvas and in particular to reference to the home environment, I will explore the status of craft in relation to painting and in particular the language of embroidery.”

Focusing chiefly on materialising painting as object, she plans to use the TV imagery that captured the collective consciousness during the rescue.

Ellen says:

“In relation to my role as a HE lecturer, I would like to enrich my teaching through my practice and to establish research interests in relation to my work.”

A larger range of Ellen’s work can be seen in her online gallery HERE:

Helen Graham

Signs, symbols and mythology inform ceramist Helen Graham’s work.

Using handmade porcelain and terracotta forms, she creates thought-provoking works on themes such as politics, feminism and advertising.

Her current practice is a progression from her MA in Visual Arts.

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Creating hand-built forms from Southern Ice porcelain – a “very white, very translucent and very expensive” material – Helen imposes recognisable contemporary symbols on to handled flasks that reflect Classical and pre-Classical history and mythology.

Helen says:

“I am interested in themes such as gender and semiotics, and aim to create a visual narrative through inlaid decoration. Some are obvious comments; others are more obtuse and open to interpretation.”

Forms are created to reflect Ancient Near Eastern and Greek designs and decorated with, for example, female and male symbols for toilets, mixed in with religious imagery such as a bishop’s mitre. Helen designed this work to question the current Pope’s pledge to address world poverty while rejecting women’s reproductive rights, and refers to it as a commentary on Christianity’s uneasy relationship with women.

“We live in a culture where women’s lives are determined by the ways in which they are perceived,” she says. “And yet, at the 2013 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, the term “reproductive rights” was removed, such is the strength of the Vatican lobby”.

“I am fascinated by archaeology and ancient sites and am a complete trainspotter for pre-Christian imagery. Many pre-Christian religions had female deities but Christianity either maligned them, or appropriated them and their festivals.”

Other recent works include a series about the 2012 Olympics, depicting Jessica Ennis and a female Iraqi archer,

“it’s a comment about passivism and women as products”, says Helen.

She is currently building her practice in preparation for the pursuit of a PhD.

Prior to her MA studies, Helen completed a BA (Hons) in Art and Design at Bradford University, specialising in ceramics and print-making (1989). She worked on a Creative Workshop Scheme and, in 1990, won a Princes Trust grant to investigate Portuguese ceramics, such as azulejoes and decorated majolica ware.

Helen was a founder member of Prospect Mill Studios in Thornton, Bradford. She is a qualified and experienced silversmith and holds a PGCE qualification. She has been teaching at HSAD since 2000.

She exhibits and sells her work widely, most recently at the British Craft Fair, Dean Clough in Halifax and at Gallery Eleven in Hull as part of a Northern Potters’ Association show. Upcoming exhibitions include a display in the North York Moors visitor centre at Danby; the Lillian Coleman Gallery in St John’s Wood, London; and The Meeting Room at South Square Centre in Thornton, Bradford, in November.

You can view Helen’s ceramics at: www.helengraham.org.uk.