Helen Sear, in a project curated by Ffotogallery and commissioned by the Arts Council of Wales, is the artist to represent Wales at the 56th International Art Exhibition. Her exhibition ‘…the rest is smoke’ features a suite of five new works, which are both rooted in the local and familiar landscapes of Wales, and respond to the wider context of the Venice Biennale. The exhibition is housed in the Santa Maria Ausiliatrice, a church and former convent in the Castello area of Venice.
The title of Helen Sear’s exhibition is taken from an inscription in Mantegna’s last painting of St. Sebastian, now housed in the Ca’ d’Oro in Venice: Nihil nisi divinum stabile est. Caetera fumus.
Ideas of mortality and temporality are explored through a series of new works in which agricultural landscapes marked for production and consumption are seen to exist simultaneously as magical spaces, imprinting themselves on the body and mind of the viewer. Sear’s photographic and video works explore the image as sculptural form whereby the artist integrates different speeds of looking, contrasting physical scale, colour and vivid material presence. The works resonate strongly with each other and with the architectural site of the exhibition.
Helen Sear is the first female artist to be selected for a solo exhibition for Cymru yn Fenis/Wales in Venice. Known as one of Wales’ most significant contemporary artists, Helen Sear continues to explore sensory ideas and expressions, vision, touch, and the re-presentation of the nature of experience with particular reference to the human and animal body and her immediate environment in rural Wales and France. Since moving to Wales in 1984, the artist has continued to exhibit and teach in Wales and internationally, with recent solo exhibitions in Quebec, Canada, New York and Stuttgart.
Presented by Ffotogallery, the national development agency for photography in Wales, the organisation has enjoyed a longstanding relationship with the artist, having published Helen Sear’s thirty year retrospective monograph Inside The View in 2012, and previously exhibited her work on several occasions both internationally and in Wales.