Friday 16 February 2018

Q&A with Liz Helman

Q&A with Liz Helman
on the occasion of 3x3: An exhibition of nine women photographers
New Art Projects, London
11 January - 4 March 2018

Anna McNay: What are the key concerns or themes running through your practice?

Liz Helman: Displacement and dislocation.

AMc: How much a part of your work does self-portraiture form?

LH: At the moment, not much.

AMc: As a woman looking at a woman (herself – but perhaps also other women, if you also make portraits of others), how aware are you of the conventions and load of the female gaze? To what extent do you work with or subvert these?

LH: I neither work with nor subvert, but, of course, I’m eyeballing you with my gaze and sense of defiance! Art imitates life J 

AMc: How – if at all – does your sexuality influence or shape your work, especially your self-portraits?

LH: It doesn’t.

AMc: As a woman who likes women, looking at women, do you feel your gaze is different from the gaze of a heterosexual woman artist? In what way?

LH: No, but it’s all about attitude.

AMc: Can you say something about the work you are submitting for this exhibition? How are you seeking to portray yourself? What are the key aspects you’re drawing forth? Physical, psychological, sociological?

LH: This work is about belonging and understanding; choosing and eliminating. Not necessarily queer, but about the choices we make in life per se. The gaze confronts these questions. At the time I was really interested in biometric identification and so I was exploring that. Biometric verification is any means by which a person can be uniquely identified by evaluating one or more distinguishing biological traits. Unique identifiers include fingerprints, hand geometry, earlobe geometry, retina and iris patterns, voice waves, DNA, and signatures.

AMc: Do you seek to portray yourself as object, subject, or both? How does this dynamic come through in your work?

LH: Object and subject can go together. This confronts the viewer, what the viewer makes of it is their reading.

AMc: Do you work in media other than photography? If so, how does the gaze offered by the camera differ from the viewpoint obtained through other media? How does the experience as artist differ? Does it make the act of looking easier or more difficult? If you don’t work with other media, what is it about the gaze of the camera that attracts you to working with photography?

LH: Yes, sound. I look with my ears. But photography has always been my first love and I earn a living as a picture editor and researcher and take pictures all the time. The first time I was in a darkroom was when I was 12. I love photographs, period.

AMc: What one work of art, depicting a woman as object – or subject, have you been most influenced/impressed by and what is it about this work that captures you?

LH: I like the work of Modigliani, but I am influenced by no one really; I just filter, absorb, make. I do like the simplicity, colour and lines of his women.


Liz Helman
Untitled. Belonging

Also published here

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