“…Our identities and trajectories are shaped by tests and how testing is a reflection of power.” — Helen Payne
Helen Payne’s ink wash drawings occupy a fluid space between representational and non-representational, ink washes built upon a solid draughtsmenship yet rendered with great immediacy. As if each one took only minutes to complete, the artist working nimbly with her brush with an economy of effort and heightened deliberation.
The drawings are part of a series that attempts to take a fresh perspective on questions if identity and the metrics of human existence. “I work in the studio creating objects and images that help me process and understand how the world works,” explains Payne. “These days, I am thinking about ways we measure and monetize our bodies and minds. My current work, The ABCs of the Weight of Measures, is an installation about how we measure and mismeasure ourselves and how what is the messiest and intensely private is often the focus of measurement. Each letter of the alphabet is the start of an acronym for a common test of human measurement, i.e. A is for APGAR; B is for BMI, and so on. The ABC of the Weight of Measures examines how our identities and trajectories are shaped by tests and how testing is a reflection of power.”
Although Payne does not specifically frame the work as self-portrait or autobiography, introspection feels at the root of her observations, although the academic motif enables her to expand the idea to a universal context to which anyone might be able to relate. There is neat balance of the intellectual and populism in the belief that we are only able to understand ourselves through such often arbitrary and artificial constructs. The commentary Payne seems to offering is not necessarily comforting, but it is a healthy challenge to our programmed notions of self.
Hometown: Jamestown, Rhode Island
Education: MFA Candidate at University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, 2019;
BA, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV, 2000;
With additional studies at: The Maryland Institute, College of Art, Baltimore, MD, The Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, UK. Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, Naropa Institute, Boulder, CO
Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2017 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.