The work presented here by artist Helen Mirra is the result of more than nine years during which her daily activity has been to walk through different topographies.
Walking, writing, and weaving: all everyday activities, all performed in the present tense, producing a record of time through action, a sort of meditation in motion.
What we see exhibited here today is time, time in the present tense. The significance of the pieces is the process of making, of waking and walking, of walking and weaving: taking the threads of linen, wool and silk, and creating from them a composition whose beauty and value reside not only in the materials, the natural dyes, and the simple designs, but also in the concrete realization of a present time. Being and making: making in order to be.
Some of the works are prints made with oil stick on lightweight raw linen. The direct impressions of exemplar materials were picked up by the artist as directional recordings made over the course of a single day´s walk in direction of her path. In other cases she instead writes a text of 5, 7 or 9 words regarding the conditions along the walk; the compiled text becomes another kind of field index. The prints, or writing, are only a partial recording; the walking is what allows the process.
Woven pieces are a yarn transformation of the movements of the artist’s body, her working hands, the repeated movements of her arms, her attentive being. The size of the work is determined by two different looms. Each one was made in a month of a different year and are titled after the month’s name in Esperanto.
The Waulked Triangles have been weaved on a large triangle loom. Each weaving has wool from two black sheep — changing from one to the other halfway through. Three blacks appear: two from the individual sheep, one of their admixture. These three blacks are barely differentiated one from another but for a delimiting colored strand, dyed from foraged mushrooms, drawn through each work. Each inexact triangle is doubled over a cedar support.
Helen Mirra’s work is, among many things, an invitation to reflect on the actions we perform every day, on the significance of our decisions and the consequences they have on ourselves and our environment.
One of the artist’s conditions for her work, and hence for the institutions that house or exhibit it, is not to purchase or produce new objects or furnishings and not to use either plastics or toxic materials. Just as the artist herself is respectful of her environment, so the process of working with her involves assuming the same commitment and learning to do things in a different way.
The artist ponders on how viewers may encounter her work in the gallery:
“It’s like walking all day in rain and then coming inside and changing into dry clothes, or sleeping and awake, or vice versa. A gallery is a temporary minimalist habitat, and sort of like an animal shelter… Maybe an examined life is best led outdoors, constantly reminded of its interdependence, and the exhibition space is a useful temporary fiction of autonomy for artworks, for another kind of attending to”.