Helen Robertson on redefining the truth of an image

by Vincenza Napoli

This week we’ve caught up with London-based artist Helen Robertson who shared some insight into her world of mixing and matching images to create her intriguing collages. Once a painter with a love for photographs and postcards, Helen has found her calling in creating her collages and we’re so glad she did!

Helen’s collages are characterised by her use of images that you wouldn’t normally find together. By carrying out this method with the use of photographs, Helen’s work actively asks viewers to reconsider the truths they see.

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I'm keeping going with my 'a collage a day' project over on Instagram. Every day I (try to!) create a new piece and post it. I've found this really beneficial to my practice as I have to be quite quick. I have also found ideas which I can develop further and spend more time on at a later date.

It's helpful for me to be working on something every day and having a deadline to adhere to. Posting on Instagram has also brought up opportunities for me; I recently found a collage club which meets in London and is great!

What attracted you to creating collages?

I hated painting! I found, whilst completing my art degree, that I couldn't stand how much time a painting took, I didn't have the patience for it. I always had an interest in vintage photography and postcards and just started making a mess with those which developed into my love of collage. I enjoy manipulating images and making them 'mine', especially using really interesting source materials and changing them entirely. I like that collage can be very quick or very considered and detailed.

Where do you find your materials?

I find my materials in lots of different places such as markets charity shops or eBay. Since posting on Instagram amazing people have sent me interesting images to work with. I'm most excited when I find a curious book and know I can get a lot of material out of it. This makes me think of different ideas for pieces and inspires me to make more art and mess! I also really enjoy rummaging around in charity shops; there are so many unique images to be found and charity shops have such a wide selection of books from all different decades.

How do you select and pair your images?

Trial and error mostly. I do a lot of work before I stick everything in place. I try to find images which instantly click together and create a narrative which wouldn't normally be there. Lately I've been interested in fashion images and replacing the clothing with images of nature which makes quite an interesting pairing. I like making obvious pairings of images but at the same time subtle changes are really interesting. I enjoy taking something typically recognisable and giving it a new lease of life.

You write that your work tries ‘to understand what makes an image ‘true’ and believable’. Can you explain this in further detail?

I find photography such an interesting medium to work with because they are a split second snapshot of time which doesn’t necessarily represent that moment. What is it about a photograph that gives it credence? Why do we trust the images we are presented with? I like to manipulate images to create new ‘truths’ and narratives so that a story is created out of existing images. For example, if you place an image of a dog next to the colour red, you may think that it is an angry dog. We form opinions based on the combinations of images we see.

What do you consider to be the 'truth'?

The ‘truth’ of an image is where it shows an accurate representation of the moment in time. This is quite difficult to do as each viewer brings their own thoughts and biases to the table to give the image new meaning. An image cannot ever really be 'true' as it is never real life, whatever reality may be... I play with this concept by making ludicrous scenes which could not possibly be true.

What role has exhibiting and selling your works online played in your career?

I love being able to sell work on Artfinder because it is easy to manage and has granted me new opportunities to exhibit my work. I have been involved in an exhibition in London where I met other Artfinder artists and was able to get their feedback and thoughts on my work, as well as sharing my ideas with them. Exhibiting work online has also helped me find what people like or dislike about my work. The review system on Artfinder is helpful as it helps buyers express their thoughts about my work.

Any exciting plans or exhibitions coming up in the future?

No, I’ve just started a new job and haven’t been very organised with planning anything! I’m hoping I’ll continue to meet interesting people and make contacts which will open up the opportunity to exhibit more often.

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