Helen Gilbart is particularly interested in accessing specific histories buried deep within the land, whether urban or rural. How a place has been physically made, what it has experienced, witnessed or might reveal, who or what was there, the clues. These questions were initiated through Gilbart’s joint BA Honours degree in Geography with Art and the Environment and has formed a long thematic exploration; producing work by embedding herself directly within the landscape and related subject matter ever since. Her various residencies and commissions have enabled her to work in the UK and abroad using mainly paint, and occasionally print, textiles and sculpture.
Gilbart’s awards include those for extended periods working in specific landscapes in the Mediterranean. Amongst these were a year residency in Cyprus and another for fifteen months in coastal Andalusia developing her interests. Other residencies include Artist in Residence in the Earth Sciences Department at the University of Cambridge between 1999 and 2006, working with Earth Scientists and outstanding palaeontology that offered clues to specific landscapes over huge sweeps of time. In 2009 Gilbart was funded to work at the UNESCO Burgess Shale fossil beds in Field, British Columbia as part of Darwin200. Since 2010 archaeological themes have dominated, with projects triggered through the British Museum; working from their hidden collections and in the AHOB (Ancient Human Occupation of Britain) project in Happisburgh, Norfolk. These were referenced in Into the Holloway – an extensive, linear work of 325 paintings that was completed and documented as a film in 2017. In this, and in most recent projects entitled Conversations, the hidden archive stored in specific landscapes and objects is further explored. Recently Gilbart has completed Book of Hours I & II – a Lockdown meditation on time, place, histories, identity, humanity and connection. Comprising nearly 800 small painted images on playing cards, Book of Hours forms two large image books. In collaboration with The Art Station, Saxmundham an in depth Book of Hours notated microsite and film made with Emily Richardson have been produced.