Surrounded in serenity of art we had a chance to sit down with Suffolk-based artist elen Lack. Helen has been on an extremely difficult and emotional journey within self-discovery and breast cancer. Her work inspired people around the world, where she had a chance to exhibit art pieces. elen’s work represents vulnerability, emotions, passion and understanding and Collective Art gallery and Project Space is proud to introduce to you her exclusive solo exhibition about Helen’s journey.
We are so pleased to have you here, Helen - what an honour.
“Thank you for having me - it’s such an amazing space, right in the heart of St. Albans.Collective is exactly what St. Albans needed. A wonderful space where artists can meet, join and network and share all sorts of mediums - art, photography, poetry…”
You blend in so naturally. I was wondering what was your inspiration for becoming an artist and if you can tell us more about your creative journey?
“It started in Bedfordshire. I picked up a leaflet and a lady called Jeane Pickton who was about to become my mentor at the time, did art lessons in Sandy. So It though - this sounds really great, fun. I’d love to pursue my obby in art. Week later I was joining everything in terms of homework - triple the amount.I became totally immersed and totally focused. I attended for a year. I was definitely the one, as I was told, who is going to go off my own course. To quote Jane Picton: “You’re like a racehorse, I need to let you go.And then I decided to have an exhibition straight after that in Stevenage and that was the beginning.”
how did it feel - the first time seeing people getting to know your work and interacting with it?
“Absolutely unbelievable. I think I had about 10 pieces there and all were sold. It gave me the confidence to be able to continue. And then literally 3 months after I was at the Brick Lane in London gallery and that was my first proper exhibition. It was just phenomenal.It was incredible to jump from hertfordshire to Shoreditch and I’ve never looked back.”
If we would have a chance to jmp in a time a little bit, you’re about to have a solo exhibition in here -Art Collective gallery in July, if people who came for first time to your very first exhibition in Stevenage in the past, and now they would be coming to the exhibition in July they might expect quite a lot of change and growth.
“It's a complete difference. This will be the biggest most personal achievement in my life. In the last year I had triple negative breast cancer - all the way through I was documenting the journey in the hope of doing an exhibition. I didn’t know where or wic venue but I became a very focused and motivated person. As soon as I came into the Collective gallery I knew this was the gallery to tell my story and this is an incredibly powerful exhibition in order to inspire men, to inspire women. You can do anything - if you have dreams, that you can tell. As long as you have the voice and you can document it all.”
That is so precious. I can imagine - especially when it comes to its location - it is more accessible for people that definitely need to learn more.
Absolutely, but also because people that I know, that I am hoping that they would come on by, if it would be in London it would be less accessible.
What is the biggest message of this exhibition coming up in July?
That you can fight any battle and as long as you are strong, you can portray that in any medium at all. I chose art, photography, and poetry. I chose to look at quotes and positive aspirations.And that's what I feel. The quote- “I will paint my way through this”, is exactly the quote I said to the nurse when she told me the diagnosis.
That's very powerful. How would you like the visitors coming to this exhibition to feel after when they leave?
I want them to feel quite enlightened.I want them to feel a sense of emotion. I’d like them to feel and be able to visualize the true picture and a greater insight of what I did go through. That would mean a lot. If they can take away that feeling that there is closeness. Me as an artists I’ll be sarin so much of my soul through the art and messages, it is a rawness that some people would never be able to experience in their life. I want them to experience the feelings that I’ve been feeling - that closeness- I feel like I’ve done exactly what I needed to do.
I think it’s also very trustin to be able to share those moments with others.There is going to be so many women that will look up to you and also understand their own bodies and that you can make your way through this. Can you tell us a little bit more about how your creativity was either challenged or immersed?
It was definitely enhanced. I was not going to let any stage be without any paints, brushes not being able to express myself. There were some days were I could hardly open my eyes after the first days of chemo. The drugs were so toxic.People said - it’s like being run over by bus - at the time I tout - well that won’t happen to me. Well, it did. But even when there were situations I was able to illustrate from the bed, I was able to illustrate, which I haven't done before. But there was no way that I would be able to paint large canvases - I had no strength. Other times I would turn to words and write poems or messages.So it would enhance my creativity.
How did you feel after you went through surgery?
After the surgery in terms of the healing process I had no strength. My surgery happened on my birthday, which was the most wonderful gift as I became cancer free.It's the best birthday gift you can ever have. But at least 6-8 weeks I had what they call “drains”. I thought - goodness I’ll never be able to paint, as the pain travelled through and across my arm that I paint with. But I wasn't gonna give up, I had small canvases, took my time and I found the strength in my arm back again.The works I produced after the surgery are really significant. I honestly did think that I would never be able to paint again. When I spoke to the consultant he said that the damage was permanent. And I thought that was me done, but me being me - I would start to paint with my toes if that would be the case.
So you picked up a new wave of powerful strength and energy to keep trying...
Because I found the way to the solution.When I went through the radiotherapy. That was incredibly claustrophobic. People leaving you and being trapped in a machine. I created a series of illustrations called Solitary figure, Frozen in fear and more that are showing the agony that I went through to get myself through these sessions. These radiotherapy sessions took about 3 months.
In this exhibition - is there any particular piece that felt so vulnerable to you that you weren't sure if you’d like to exhibit?
Yes - it is a piece called “Scars”. And it really is a bi piece, certainly not pretty aesthetic. I tout about it the hardest - it is spontaneous, tere is just body, no head and just scars. And this is how I felt. Mental and Physical scars - they are all on there and this piece shows it. It is a very vulnerable piece.
Thank you for sarin tat with us. So you have the solo exhibition here in July. What is next in your career?
Possibly going and exploring collage. It is something that I’m playin with in my mind. I haven't physically started yet. I'm just looking at well known collage artists and I am becoming quite intrigued to possibly change up.
YOU MAY LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW AS A PODCAST IN HERE