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Cutting-edge craft and art

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: January 24, 2013

By Anita Merritt

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TESTING the boundaries between craft and art, while also embracing new technologies, is ground-breaking artist Helen Snell.

A new and ambitious body of work entitled Burnt Out is now on show in the Riverside Gallery at the Devon Guild of Craftsmen in Bovey Tracey.

The sculptural installation embraces new technologies such as laser cutting and water jet cutting in a range of diverse materials.

The imagery is the result of an ongoing collaboration with the National Museum of the Royal Navy, exploring themes of exploration, imperialism and the human and environmental cost of war.

Helen, a Devon-based artist and associate Devon Guild member, explained: "Combining the mass produced and the unique is, for me, humorous and ironical and full of suggestion and contradiction.

"I am interested in the process of reproduction and also the theme of reproduction, with reference to the ethical debate surrounding bio-technology, genetics, sex and consumerism. My work is also informed by the relationship between image and paper engineering. I am especially interested in the idea of the imperfect edition.

"Traditionally a printmaker is to be congratulated on his or her skill in producing a perfect edition. I have always found this to be a very mechanical approach; after the thrill of pulling the first few prints the process is predictable and becomes a routine.

"In the natural world we are familiar with classification along the lines of type, yet on reflection every leaf on a beech tree, as well as being true to type, is also distinctly different."

In Helen's current series of laser cut paper and acrylic vessels she explores the theme of survival. The works were produced during her residency in the laser cutting studios at Plymouth College of Art and Design.

Another body of work Helen has been working on is Fighting Fit. It includes a paper cut inspired by the tragic irony of the Navy or Army medical and represents preliminary research pieces in anticipation of a two-year residency at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth, starting this month.

Helen has recently exhibited in NeoReplicants at Exeter's Phoenix gallery, and is becoming acclaimed for her intricate paper cut objects. Her cutting techniques have expanded into other media such as lace textiles, screen-print, metal and birch plywood.

The free exhibition will run until Sunday, February 17, and is open daily from 10am to 5.30pm.

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