Galleria Antonella Villanova will open Helen Britton‘s solo exhibition Ménagerie on January 20th. On show drawings, sculptures and jewellery, created by the artist for the occasion and having as their object: horses, wolves, beasts, domestic animals, ancestral symbols of our hidden fears and at the same time of our desires, our emotions.
As Helen Britton explains, the ménagerie alludes to an imaginary enclosure, to the closed dimension in which those animals move within our consciousness, awakening, depending on our state of mind, fear, hope, aspiration for freedom.
All these emotions are shared by the artist with the spectator in a ritual of collective exorcisation.
There is a menagerie in my mind. Animals charging in and out of my consciousness demanding form, wanting to become Art. What do they mean? And why those ones? Horses are prevalent with their symbolic power, but there are wolves and hyenas and pigs as well. Fear and happiness, luck and dread. So, it’s not about the animals themselves, but about what they symbolise both for me and surely for others too. These animals visually formulate emotion. They carry that formulation with the energy of their likeness out of my imagination and offer a possibility to the human world, a visual moment to share our emotional lives.
With my animal works I enjoy the idea of a popular connection, not an exclusive claim. As I create these works from the impulse of the triggered emotion, I am sharing my pleasures and my fears, my courage and my happiness. The pig that makes me smile, the horse with the nimbleness of the mind, free and fast to help bear the weight of knowledge. During the pandemic I visualised fear, a great pack of wolves running – having seen a wolf come from the forest and jog across the road in front of the car I turned to that animal not because of an intrinsic evil but the instinctive fear that moment triggered. Hyenas always kindle dread.
In the works chosen there is no intention of setting up a dichotomy, no interest in opposites. This is not about good animals and bad animals. In fact, it’s not about animals at all. It is an exploration of popular symbols with deep roots that speak of the productive power of fear to demand courage which expands from my specific moment to include the courage needed to protect our hard-won freedom, to imagine and demand happiness and prosperity for all.
This exhibition is an emotional map of the last years. Jumping the the hurdles of comfort and expectation, I have made the works that had to be made and placed them together in all their diversity to show the clear links between the forms I choose. Sculpture, painting, drawing, jewellery made with courage and determination and a great sense of freedom, stemming from the wild menagerie of my mind.