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Painting (MA)

Helen Bermingham

Helen Bermingham is a London based Irish artist currently studying MA Painting at The Royal College of Art. She has a BA in History of Art and Drama from Trinity College Dublin and a Postgraduate Diploma in Costume from The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

She has exhibited throughout the UK and Europe including with Unit 1 Gallery, Collyer Bristow Gallery, Nunnery Gallery, Rua Red Dublin, Angus-Hughes, Simmons & Simmons and Universität der Künste Berlin.

She is a recipient of the Ali H. Alkazzi Scholarship Award at The Royal College of Art, winner of the staff prize for Dentons Art Prize 2019 and was shortlisted for Anthology 2017 at Charlie Smith London.

Her work is held in private collections in the UK, Europe and the USA.

In my practice I explore ideas around memory and time. I see my paintings as psychological spaces or ‘fictionscapes’ and the process of painting as a conversation that occurs between my unconscious, my memories and the material of paint. 

Central to my process is repetition. I repeat marks, images and brushstrokes from previous paintings into each subsequent new one. I’m interested in the idea that every time I repeat a mark it changes- much like each time you recall a memory it changes. The incidental mark making that occurs when painting is also an important part of my process by which elements of newness or surprise can enter the work. These unplanned marks find an association with the unconscious and take the work in a new direction both visually and emotionally. Paintings start from one position and end up somewhere unanticipated and new, but somewhere new that has a resonance with me. I feel they often throw up ‘new’ memories. Allowing associative thought to play a role pushes the painting along and creates new ideas for further works. 

Through my repetition of paint marks from painting to painting, I create a kind of ‘genealogy’ of marks; that connections can be unearthed and excavated from the work. My paintings have become a sort of world building (‘fictionscaping’) out of my own archive of marks that grows with each use.

In this way I see painting as a repository of time and memory. As the work progresses the lines between memory and fiction, past and present become blurred and make way for something new. The marks change and develop to be used again in future paintings thus constantly propelling the work forward while also looking back to the past. 

Anticipation of a future archaeology — oil on canvas, 180 x 180 cm
Excerpt from Rooms; a play by Helen Bermingham
Skyscraping — oil on canvas, 180 x 130 cm

Memory shifts. It changes. It moves and moulds, lives and dies, resurfaces and buries itself deeply. 

We remake our past each time we recall it. Every occasion a memory is brought forth the edges become blurry, the details morph, we add a little here, detract a little there. We reconstruct our past. What once was is lost and what now is (was) has never happened.

‘We tell ourselves stories in order to live. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We invent our stories, we invent ourselves.’

-Joan Didion

And the fizz in the lemonade popped — oil on linen, 30 x 25 cm
Excerpt from Rooms; a play by Helen Bermingham
Burning through my thoughts — oil on canvas, 180 x 160 cm
This is not the road, it’s only the map — oil on canvas, 180 x 180 cm
The fabric grass and the upholstered sky — oil on linen, 30 x 25 cm
Excerpt from Rooms; a play by Helen Bermingham
I burned myself bright — oil on linen, 30 x 25 cm
Wooden dreams — oil on linen, 30 x 25 cm

Fugue — oil on canvas, 170 x 150 cm
Fugue (details)
Extract from Rooms; a play by Helen Bermingham
In a world of forces and matter — oil on linen, 30 x 25 cm
In the dead of night I swam to you — oil on linen, 30 x 25 cm
Excerpt from Rooms; a play by Helen Bermingham
Hot tongues on a summer’s day — oil on canvas, 50 x 40 cm
In a sea of great delight I lost you — oil on linen, 30 x 25 cm
Dismantling the past — oil on linen, 30 x 25 cm

Ali H. Alkazzi Scholarship Award