Illustration: Helene Davis. Black Rain.
Probably the most fundamental and guiding principal that colours, literally, the work of textile artist Helene Davis is that of her passion for hand-dyed fabric. Davis, after using bought quilting fabrics for a number of years, moved into the process of hand-dying her own fabrics, making each quilting project a much more personal and individual process.
Illustration: Helene Davis. Black Rain (detail).
Hand-dying is an exciting but often less than accurate medium in which to work. It takes a lot of skill, time, and patience in order to arrive at a range of fabrics in colour-ways, tones, and scale that can easily be worked with. The fact that the images shown in this article have arrived at that point, is easily evident. Davis is in control of the medium from start to finish. By producing her own dyed fabrics, she is able to forge a link between colour and texture that is both personal and individual, something that can never be truly said for bought fabric.
Illustration: Helene Davis. Flight to the Future.
The abstract process and the compositional layout allows the artist free reign over colour balances, textural juxtapositions, and tonal harmonies that seem effortless to the viewer, but are obviously hard to produce creatively without appearing indistinct and in many ways incomplete.
Davis is well aware that her coloured and textured fabrics have to balance compositionally, optically, and even emotionally. Each of these compositions has areas that are cut up into smaller sections of light and dark, placed next to areas where the dyed fabric is allowed to expand over much larger sections of the work. This carefully balanced juxtaposition helps to break up the colours and textures and allow the eye to roam over the composition, picking out small sections and details of interest.
Illustration: Helene Davis. Infrared.
Close ups of Davis work show that the stitch-making is also part of the process, as it is in many art quilts. However, by looking at a close up detail of Black Rain for example, it can be seen that the artist has also added a whole section of beading work as part of the textural and tonal process. This added mark-making process produces yet another layer of textural quality to the piece, allowing the work to be seen from a distance or close up, producing a different quality and experience every time.
Illustration: Helene Davis. Nexus.
These abstract pieces of artwork have been created by using a number of the processes found within the hand-dying craft and that of quilting. However, the way they are re-used and re-combined allows the artist to produce an extraordinarily tactile and sensory experience of colour, texture, and tone. Each piece is a balanced use of these processes, and one that cannot be re-conceived or re-connected after its creation.
Illustration: Helene Davis. World Upside Down.
The work of Helene Davis can be found on a number of sites on the Internet. Some of her work can be seen here. There is also a site, which can be found here, where many more of her hand-dyed fabrics can be seen.
All images are used with the kind permission of the artist.