Helen Robinson, February 2016

by Ryan Salinetti

Artist Helen Robinson was first featured on The Nice Niche in October 2014

New York City

Since your posting on The Nice Niche, what have you been working on?

Since my post on The Nice Niche I have been working on a group of new paintings that will be shown at the Citigroup Center in Manhattan this March. It’s a continuation from my last show at Estia’s and will feature some of the same paintings. I’m hoping to show a series of portraits that evoke a sense of curiosity from the viewer. All of my paintings feature a non-descript background and a lack of eye contact from the model. My work represents the impact of technology and our generation’s inability to disconnect and live in the moment. Some paintings embody our addiction to our mobile devices, and others represent what happens when we are forced to put down our phones and look out at the world around us. When shown together, I hope my paintings will demonstrate a “before and after” type of effect.

In making a “disconnect” the result should be to then “connect” with the point you are trying to make…

My paintings expose the dichotomy between the virtual and the real and how that affects our social skills and ability to be present in the moment, because what importance does one’s presence really have if their attention is somewhere else? More often than not, our attention lies in a world that does not exist in the physical present. With my paintings I engage viewers emotionally through the lack of a real space and the allusion to a virtual, nonexistent one. My paintings are all oil on canvas and feature realistic figures situated in a stark white background. I omit the background in order to monumentalize a private, trivial moment, bringing attention to an important contemporary social problem: the de-personalization of conversation, communication, and interaction.

In comparison to that, my new series "Observance" is similar in style, but the subjects aren't looking down. The subject looks out to what is in front of them.


What inspires a new painting?

Most of my paintings are inspired by the people around me in everyday life. My work focuses on conceptual portraiture, stemming from an interest in people, psychology, and the way we interact and communicate. My paintings explore human connection and social interactions based on our relationship to our surroundings and one another.

My most recent paintings were inspired by a residency called the Land Art Road Trip.  I spent a full month traveling and camping to see iconic land art and landscapes of the American Southwest. Living on the road and in extremely desolate landscapes with an intimate group of people for one month was a jarring change from my chaotic life in New York City. With no cell reception for weeks at a time, this journey created an opportunity to slow down and reflect on the interactions between the people, places, and communities that I encountered. This inspired me to create a series of paintings that aim to capture the sensations of awe and wonder we feel when confronted with nature’s surreal landscapes, as well as our everyday surroundings.

You are based in the North East, do you see yourself living/working somewhere else in the future?

I’ve lived in the North East my whole life and have always envisioned staying here. I wouldn’t mind exploring and living somewhere else for a few years though. I’m always open to change. California definitely wouldn’t be a hard place to live. I could definitely spend some time in San Francisco.