What have we got here in this work? Symbols of love and violence, power, trust, humour and wisdom. A lucky charm, an amulet. Hope. Themes of popular culture, the essence of pop songs in solid form. They are illustrations or collages of cheap trinkets and components, but the sentiment they convey reaches into the deepest abyss. I see in these works all the effort, joy and failure of our existence. They seek to stand in for, in the most unpretentious way, everything that has driven our species since time immemorial. The subjects are also private icons, some accompanying me from my earliest memories, others invested with my own associations, sifted out of the chaos of possibility through fitting into my hunting pattern.
I have sifted these fragments and symbols out of the history of humanity, out of my own history, drifting around the planet, travelling with me, collecting along the tidelines of human activity and all landing in my private collection. There are great piles of these products all glittering and jittering, giggling, glinting and snarling. I am keeping some of them safe in my studio, preserving their humble stories, turning their likeness into Art. Left over cases of love, hope and despair stacked in mouldering boxes in disused factories and the warehouses of vintage component dealers. How did they come about? What were the circumstances of their production? Did they change anything? Did they help? The things I choose often come from periods in time where their subject matter and production is so intimately entwined in the political and social histories of their day that these fragments cannot help but to convey some of this story. Western utopian dreams driven by a very specific set of controls, where the production of the perfect trinket was given precedence over the protection of the environment of the actual thing being immortalised in glass and plastic. Will the trinkets be all we have in the end?
I collect and draw costume, souvenir and children’s jewellery and the components used to make these products. I focus on these genres because they are the least restrained by the pressure of expensive production. They are naive and direct, clumsy but authentic – a kind of art brut in the best case, and lets face it, its very easy to make jewellery. The drawing series started many years ago, a kind of documentation with focus on accurate, reduced pictograms, the few simple clear coloured lines sufficing to convey the subject. Over the years through this process I have developed my own complex symbolic visual language which has gone on to generate new versions of the jewellery objects and components that were the subjects of the original sequence of drawings.
Driven by curiosity, sentimentality, compassion, and empathy, I also recognise in this work that I am a part of the broad continuum of human inventiveness and creativity, with my own utopian dreams of hope and luck, perhaps more so now than ever.
Helen Britton 2019
Portrait Styled by Corrina Teresa Brix and photographed by Dirk Eisel