Helen Robertson‘s collages encourage us to look at the world in an entirely different way, to see each other and the space between us as layered instead of separate, colors pooling and building to build a reality maybe none of us can see all at once. It made us feel thoughtful, and inspired, and connected.
Basically? We loved the depth to each piece. So we hung out with Helen for a bit to talk art, astrology, and the body.
VAGABOND CITY: What inspires your work?
Mostly the materials I use. I can flick through a magazine or pile of postcards and get an idea for something just based on a single image. I enjoy seeing how images fit together and what stories they can tell just from their placement.
I love being based in London as there are so many great shows and artists in the capital. Most weekends I can find an interesting exhibition I want to see which inspires me.
VAGABOND CITY: That’s exactly why we’re always trying to go to art shows and art festivals. It’s so helpful for inspiration. So, why collage?
I first started working on collage projects in my second year of university. I always had an interest for vintage photography, small snapshots of life gone by and being transported back to that era. I love that collage can be very quick; you can have an idea and just run with it; you can make such intricate and exciting work quite quickly.
Simply placing two images side by side can create an entirely new narrative and story which I find fascinating. I also love being able to find and use media which I find so interesting. From modern fashion magazines to old, discoloured postcards, I feel like all these things are treasures for me to breathe new or different life into. Each media tells a different story and has a different history.
VAGABOND CITY: What pushed you to begin doing a collage a day?
I decided to create an Instagram account for posting one college a day to give myself motivation to keep working. Currently, I find it quite difficult to motivate myself to make art as I also work fulltime, so having a project which demands deadlines is helpful for me. I also enjoy finding new artists and creators on Instagram who can inspire me and I hope I can inspire them too.
I like feeling like part of a community, each of us making new work and sharing it with one another.
VAGABOND CITY: Would you say you’ve always been creative?
Yes, I was always drawing and painting and making a mess in my Mum’s house. I loved creative projects in school and always spent too long on the designing rather than the content….
It wasn’t until I went to University that I found my passion for collage and all things paper.
VAGABOND CITY: In your bio, you say, “Trying to be an artist.” Do you consider yourself an artist?
This is a difficult question because when can someone consider themself an artist? I feel like, when you can support yourself solely by making and selling your artwork you can have the coveted title. When people ask me what I do I say ‘I work in an office and do art in my spare time’ and I would love to be able to say: ‘Oh, I’m actually an Artist.’
VAGABOND CITY: Where do you see your work in 5 years?
Hopefully, open to a wider audience! I’d love to be more well known as an artist and be able to exhibit and work more. My Instagram project of ‘a collage a day’ is helping me build up a portfolio of work so hopefully I can use this to make my name more well known and open up some opportunities for me.
VAGABOND CITY: It definitely seems to be doing well! Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
I mostly listen to one of my Spotify playlists which contains anything from Britney to things I’m more likely to admit like Chvches, Vaults and David Bowie. I also like to watch netflix documentaries while I’m working so I feel like I’m learning while working.
VAGABOND CITY: What’s your sign? Are you into astrology?
I’m a Virgo and whilst I’m not particularly into astrology the traits of a Virgo fit me very well: I am very perfectionistic, quite reliable and practical but also quite shy and reserved. I can also be very negative on myself and others which I put down to being a Virgo….
VAGABOND CITY: Astrology is so much fun. It’s always so telling with traits people align themselves with, or say are false. So, your work is very heavy on bodies and faces. What is it about the body that earns it a place in your work?
I find bodies and faces really interesting to work with as they are so recognisable and therefore produce such exciting results. Just by obscuring a face it makes me intrigued by the piece as I want to know more; I want to know what their expression is, what the person is thinking and feeling. Obscuring or changing a face completely changes the original image.
VAGABOND CITY: On Tumblr, you write: “I work with Collage and Photography to try to understand what makes an image ‘true’ and believable.” Can you expand on this?
While I was at university I wrote my dissertation about propaganda and image manipulation. This led me to work with new ideas in my own practice about what is a ‘real image’. With collage, any image or narrative can be created from the materials and I find this idea so interesting. I’m also interested in photography and the way in which it captures a single second of time, and this image is not necessarily representative of the real situation.
VAGABOND CITY: When you aren’t creating collages, what are you doing?
I work full-time in an office in London so mostly I am working! I also love to see shows and exhibitions in the galleries here. We have s many great free galleries, like the Tates, British Museum, National Portrait Gallery etc. It’s also great to walk about among the city, I take a lot of photos and sometimes sketch.
About the artist
Helen Robertson is a graduate of Fine Art from Cambridge School of Art. Helen works with Collage and Photography to try to understand what makes an image ‘true’ and believable. Her work looks to explore the new realities and narratives which can be made from combining or changing images.
Helen’s work has been featured internationally and in the UK, she is currently working on bringing her work to a wider audience through exhibiting and social media.