Monday, February 12, 2007

Art Space Talk: Helen Babis

I recently interviewed artist Helen Babis. Helen works with a variety of mediums (including handmade paper). She is innately drawn to an expressive approach of deriving and releasing creativity from an unconscious state of mind.

Her abstractions are intuitive, spontaneous and deliberate messages which necessitate a vital action to release, bridge and balance the tension between spontaneity and the pursuit for aesthetic value.

Somewhere in the sanctuary of her being, symbolic messages are driven with the fervor of a hunter, attempting to define and capture the voice, to bring it to light. In some instances, ceaseless and recurring messages, forms and symbols rise, conveying dissatisfaction with the finality of only one image as the interpretation of the unconscious voice.

Q. When did you first discover that art would be an important part of your adult life?

A. "I don’t know if it was a discovery, the need to be creative has always been innately present in my life."

Q. How has society influenced your art? Are there any social implications in your art?

A. "Society is obviously responsible for the human experience and condition and of course, I am not immune, (thankfully) but I am not always conscious of how and when I may have specifically been affected. The affects surface in my work in an abstract language, symbolically expressing my emotional reaction and response to these influences.
Regarding social implications in my art, well there are these faces and figures that arise, I’m not sure when and if they represent others or they’re all self portraits."

Q. On average, how long does it take you to create a piece?

A. "It varies, sometimes magic happens during a spontaneous ½ hour or so ;up to a week or more with further manipulation, assessment and additional enhancements.

More often than not, I have no control over the completion of the work; it happens and evolves in its own time."

Q. Can you share some of your philosophy about art and artistic creation?

A. "Art sustains a wonderful thing called self indulgence. It is a very powerful, transformative and expressive tool that gives a physical presence to the spirit and soul of the artist.

I also believe it’s important that artistic creations be shared. In the sharing, individuals can become empowered and connected emotionally and intellectually.

Art defines a society and I believe it serves as the glue for the pursuit of a healthy, social and emotional intelligence."

Q. What was your most important exhibition? Care to share that experience?

A. "It wasn’t the exhibition itself; it was an experience I had at the opening of the show. Two critics were discussing my work exchanging opinions regarding the intended meaning of a particular piece. I was standing behind them listening to the conversation; both were expressing strong opinionated differences of their perceived meanings with equal convictions. I found it humorous and interesting from the perspective that as the artist, I had no clue what it meant.

This created the opportunity for me to re-assess an element in the criteria I had adopted to determine the validity of the work I produced. I concluded that aside from aesthetic value, I shouldn’t judge the validity of my work on whether I effectively communicated a clear and specific message, but that the evocation of connectivity with my audience was an integral element beyond serving my own personal needs."

Q. Do you have any 'studio rituals'? As in, do you listen to certain types of music while working? What helps to get you in the mood for working?

A. "I seem to create best when I allow myself to be free and in tune with the present moment. Sometimes I play music; sometimes music is distracting period and other times music has been a hindrance.

More often than not, my emotional barometer dictates when and how I create and what I do to facilitate it. There have been many times that I have sabotaged myself with other perceived external impositions that establish my mood. I’m working on eradicating these obstacles."

Q. If you could pinpoint the characteristics of people who collect your art, what would they be?

A. "People who have collected my work are individuals who value artistic expression and are willing to support its importance with a financial investment. Individual’s are motivated to collect my work based on the connection and relevance of the work to their own lives, as an investment or because it is an asset in enhancing a physical environment."

Q. Discuss one of your pieces. What were you thinking when you created it?
A. "Work: Emotional Remedies. (image above)
I was inquiring within seeking an answer. I didn’t have a particular question, a preconceived idea or an expectation of the result. I was free, open and listening. It happened in one shot, quickly and without any struggle.

This is one of the few unconscious abstractions that delivered an answer with what I perceive to be of obvious clarity to me."

Q. Do you have a degree or do you plan to attend school for art? If so, how did it help you as an artist? What can you tell us about the art department that you attended?

A. "I hold a certificate in Fine Arts, a BFA in printmaking, and a teaching certificate in
Visual Arts.

Art school obviously helped me tremendously in providing me with the opportunities to learn about Art in general ,but it also provided the opportunity to network and be totally self indulgent, allowing me to experiment with a variety of media easily.

In hindsight, I lived a very privileged life, one that created a lifestyle I am always trying to integrate and replicate to sustain my heart’s desire."

Why did you choose the medium(s) that you use?

A. "I experimented with monotypes and fell in love with the spontaneity and unpredictable results of the process. I began working differently, concentrating on the removal of elements rather than on the addition of them. It was also very liberating approaching art from the perspective that I didn’t have to have a conscious idea to produce work of validity.
Not having a conscious idea to convey often prevented me from producing work. This was a form of personal sabotage that was restricting my growth with imposed obstacles.

I became innately drawn to the expressive approach of deriving and releasing creativity from my unconscious state of mind. The results are intuitive, spontaneous and deliberate messages which continue to keep me emotionally balanced and maintain a passion for the power of the unconscious state of mind."

Q.Where can we see more of your art?

A. "You can view my work on
I’m working on a few more venues like and a website of my own."

Q. What trends do you see in the 'art world'?

A. "Computer technology has obviously impacted and expanded the ways individuals can encounter, express and convey messages creating new opportunities for self-expression and creative competence. Integral art forms have expanded the categories of Art and enabled many more individuals to be creative apart from the traditional art forms."

Q. What was the toughest point in your career as an artist? Have you ever hit rock-bottom?

A. "Unless an artist has the financial resources to pay for a life and extra for supporting their passions, there are constant tough points and obstacles. Fortunately, alternative thinking is a required skill for an artist so as long as there are options one is only stuck by their own efforts.

One time comes to mind, I just couldn’t, didn’t produce anything for nearly a year. I lost my self confidence in my work and actually abandoned this passion to my detriment emotionally. I didn’t apply any effort in pursuing an artistic career for quite some time. But when I did, the work was very powerful. I actually have learned to appreciate the tough points and the rock bottoms. My best work always arises out of problematic situations."

Q. In one sentence... why do you create art?

A. "Creating art is vital, it sustains an emotional balance and satisfies my need for sensory incitement."

Q. Does religion, faith, or the lack thereof play a part in your art?

A. "All of these elements contribute to my artwork. It’s just not so obvious in the visual imagery, but I believe my hand is guided by the spirit I was gifted with.

My unconscious mind is where my spirit lives. I am always inquiring within for the answers I seek and the truth always unveils itself."
I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Helen Babis. Feel free to critique or discuss her work.
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

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