Acclaimed contemporary figurative sculpture artist, Helen Fletcher was born and raised in the rural heartlands of the Midlands in the UK, and after finished her secondary schooling she studied Applied Arts at degree level, gaining a first class honours in the broad-ranging discipline. Later she relocated to Cumbria on the North West coast, then upped sticks again, finally putting roots down with her partner in York. It was in York that Fletcher reconnected with one of her favourite subject matters from her degree course, namely her love of clay. In return for helping an established local potter look after their shop, said commercial ceramic-maker afforded Fletcher a share of their studio space, and it wasn’t long before a rekindled passion for the artistic persuasion turned into a growing professional concern.
It was probably written in the stars that Fletcher would, eventually, set herself up as an independent artist of some description, when discovering that creativity coursed through the veins of a large percentage of her family. According to Fletcher amongst their number were dressmakers, painters and various arters and crafters, only stopping short of candlestick-makers. So essentially there was an underlying expectation of some kind of artistic course being plotted and navigated by the future Fletcher from an early age, being exposed to the levels of original thinking/doing/creating that she was during her formative years.
For Fletcher’s part she personally recalls a fascination with the human form stemming from her A Level art classes, which as most A Level studies do offer students the chance to recreate the likeness of models during life drawing classes. Fletcher remembers this time for opening her eyes to the human form and function from a physical mechanical perspective, whilst also acquiring an awareness and understanding for the subtle nuances of body language; both of which have remained crucial to her own approach to her muses since.
From an inspirational viewpoint, Fletcher’s influences are drawn from the far and wide, derivative of the more obvious and conventional fellow sculpturer, Rodin (responsible for some breathtaking and world-renown clay maquettes) and the drawings of Klimt, through to the slightly more unorthodox yet highly imaginative work illustratively listed under a quick Google search for ‘Assyrian friezes’ and ‘cave art’. Aside from this, Fletcher believes that she owes a debt of gratitude to the landscapes that have been native to her at various times in her life to date. Being a seasoned rock climber Fletcher has scaled many a mountain in her time and has therefore observed the aesthetics of these inspiring natural formations up close and personal, and can fully appreciate their place in nature and history for that matter. It’s fair to say that these first hand interactions with tangible substances and surface areas have gone a long way towards generating future sculpture ideas.
Fletcher speaks passionately about how the embodiment of her work focuses on the transitions that we experience as individuals travelling on life’s journey, and those personal rites of passage that connect us all at given points in time. As an artist she’s continually in awe by what she refers to as the spiritual notions of the human condition and insists that she’s grounded by the form and physical construct of the body as a tool to see us through our plains of existence. Fletcher continues; “I am particularly interested in the hands and feet which I see as actual agents of change, they grasp, stand, support, hold, drop, and run,” going on to add; “People can look at my work and attribute their own memories and emotions to individual pieces”.
Fletcher’s approach to her work is revealing as she describes in details as to how she goes about the very process which has delivered unmitigated successes since she turned professional. For a start she maintains a scrapbook which comprises all of her living, breathing ideas, concepts, inspiration and research, and that this scrap-cum-sketchbook is crucial to the origination and subsequent generation of her individual pieces. That creative touch-paper could just as easily be an observed mood, feeling or simply a pose that grabs her attention as much as a visual footnote to speak of. Fletcher then sketches on paper and with wire, what she dubs her 3D drawing, before beginning to experiment with clay and glaze.
There follows the evaluation phase and perpetual addressing and amending of the piece, until such time as she’s completely content with what she’s looking out upon. The pieces are eventually built from flat pieces of clay, curled around, joined and built up, considerately and measured, layer upon layer to compile the overall figure, each one manifested entirely from hand in a ground-up build as such, ensuring that each is unique. Once constructed, they are dried thoroughly, fired, then glazed and re-fired to their finished state. Fletcher stresses just how important and all-consuming that the connection and dialogue she seeks with others through her highly prized and collected sculptures are, concluding that; “We are all participating in the same complex scheme, and people react to one another and change”.