‘Sculpture for me is a form of drawing in space in three dimensions, I will draw until I know it is right and I can see the finished piece in my mind’s eye’, she explains. ‘What I leave out is just as important as what I put in and the use of negative space is integral to my work.’
Many artists have used recycled materials but none like Helen Denerley, whose work has an international following. There is something about her creatures that hold our attention. We are drawn first to the head, where she begins her pieces with the head, hanging as it from a beam so that she can get it at the right height. The heels follow and she gradually fills in the remaining form; somehow describing living muscles, sinew and movement from the inanimate metal. Her sculptures are linear, welded scrap metal coached into graceful curves and sinuous shapes which suggest as much by what they leave out as what they describe.
Drawing is key to her process. Helen sees observation and drawing as fundamental to any artist and her work explores the same language and ideas whether it is in two or three dimensions. She studied at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen, which still teaches the importance of traditional drawing skills. Her understanding of anatomy underpins her work and her trained eye can extract the perfect piece of scrap metal from her pile to create her forms.
‘Sculpture for me is a form of drawing in space in three dimensions, I will draw until I know it is right and I can see the finished piece in my mind’s eye’, she explains. ‘What I leave out is just as important as what I put in and the use of space is integral to my work.’
Helen’s work is widely recognised, resulting in world-wide commissions from Japan to South Georgia, from the 24 foot high giraffes in Edinburgh to delicate birds and insects. She has an extraordinary skill, born from her sense of draughtsmanship and observation, creating these graceful creatures from the discarded flotsam of our age.