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.

…caetera fumus, Helen Sear, 2105
…caetera fumus (2015), Helen Sear ©

Helen Sear

Installation view of The Company of Trees (2015), Helen Sear
Installation view of The Company of Trees (2015), Helen Sear ©

Helen Sear

Installation view of Helen Sear's exhibition
Installation view of The Company of Trees (2015), Helen Sear ©

Helen Sear

The exhibition is commissioned and managed by the Arts Council of Wales and Wales Arts International with support and collaboration from the Welsh Government and British Council.

The Cymru yn Fenis/Wales in Venice exhibition is presented for the third time at the Santa Maria Ausiliatrice in Castello, located just off Via Garibaldi, midway between the main Biennale Giardini and Arsenale sites.


Helen Sear first moved to Wales in 1984 after completing an HDFA at the Slade School, University College London. Her photographs became widely known in the 1991 British Council exhibition, De-Composition: Constructed Photography in Britain, which toured Latin America and Eastern Europe. Her work was included in the exhibition About Face at the Hayward Gallery, London in summer 2004 and La Mirada Reflexiva at the Espai D’Art Contemporani in Castellon Spain in 2005. Recent solo exhibitions include, Inside The View, shown at Gallery Harmonia in Finland in 2006, g39 Cardiff who also published the bookwork Tale in 2009, Beyond The View, Hoopers Gallery London, Klompching Gallery New York and Bildkultur, Stuttgart, 2010-12. Ffotogallery published her first major monograph in 2012, Inside The View. GOST published the bookwork Brisées in 2013 which accompanied a major national tour Lure in the same year. Her most recent exhibition was at the 5th edition of Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie en Gaspesié, Quebec, Canada. Summer 2014. 

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