3 – 26 November 2021
Trained at Edinburgh College of Art and The Royal Drawing School in London, where she won the Machin Foundation Prize, Tyga Helme uses nature as a metaphor for feelings of being overwhelmed. She couples minute observation of the teeming forest floor – where the emerald green of a bramble leaf sits in stark juxtaposition to an array of cold blue silver leaves – with the flux and movement of unceasing growth. She switches from the micro to macro and a particularly favourite subject is a clump of Douglas firs near where she lives which she views from underneath, highlighting their dark and jagged canopy against the azure sky.
‘The untidy areas are the exciting bits,’ says Tyga who lives on the Wiltshire Downs where she seeks out the uncultivated corners of fields or patches of woodland floor to paint. ‘Things really do spring up in one day and everything constantly shifts around,’ she says. ‘Grasses and brambles make way for animals; a shoot is there one day and gone the next because an animal has eaten it. A mushroom suddenly appears from nowhere. Everything is in a relationship with everything else.’
A rising star in the new British Landscape movement her works embodies an awakening to importance of the ground beneath our feet.
‘I definitely feel there is a huge craving for connection with the landscape at the moment’, she says. ‘I guess the way we live now, and our treatment of the natural world, has separated us from it. Working directly from observation and then back in the studio from memory is my way of trying to get as close to it as possible.’
Key to her painting is a profound understanding of colour and she references the likes of Vuillard and Bonnard. ‘I do get so excited by the power of colour relationships and how differently we perceive colour depending on what we see it next to,’ she says.
In her recent chalk drawings depicting the sea off the coast of Pembrokeshire she has captured the choppy dynamism of the Atlantic ocean. Much like her paintings of tangled vegetation she is drawn to the
unevenness of the wild ocean as opposed to the smooth and limpid calm of lakes or other stretches of water; an occasional gull the only figurative element to occupy the otherwise saturated colour surface of the picture plane.
‘I like moving into abstraction,’ she says. ‘Creating pictures that you can become immersed in and that have no edges.’ Characteristic of her work are those in which she builds up small postcard-sized drawings to form part of a bigger whole.
‘I guess I like the way I can do a really intense drawing in each square and not see the whole until the end. It keeps me feeling a sense of exploration and keeps me involved in the process of looking. Instead of seeing everything viewed through a frame it is nearer to how we actually see – without limits or edges. I like to make pictures you get lost inside.’
Although Tyga lives and works in the UK she won an Erasmus scholarship to study at the L’Ecole Nationale Superieue des Arts Decoratifs in Strasbourg and for more than a year taught at the International Institute for Arts, Modinagar in India.
Her work is held in held in a number of important collections including the Royal collection.