Many artists have used recycled materials but none like Helen Denerley and her work has an international following. There is something about her creatures that hold our attention. We are drawn first to the head, she begins her pieces with the head, hanging it from a beam so that she can get it at the right height, the heels come next and she gradually fills in the remaining form; somehow describing living muscles, sinew and movement from the inanimate metal. Her sculptures are linear, welded scrap metal coached into graceful curves and sinuous shapes which suggest as much by what they leave out as what they describe.
Drawing is key to her process. Helen sees observation and drawing as fundamental to any artist and her work explores the same language and ideas whether it is in two or three dimensions. She studied at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen, which still teaches the importance of traditional drawing skills. ‘Sculpture for me is a form of drawing in space in three dimensions, I will draw until I know it is right and I can see the finished piece in my mind’s eye’, she explains. ‘What I leave out is just as important as what I put in and the use of space is integral to my work.’
Helen draws daily, sometimes huge life-size charcoal drawings pinned to the walls of her studio. She has been exploring the shape and contours of a Limousine bull, distressed by the way creatures are manipulated for breeding purposes. This has led to a series of monoprints which reference back to the wild bulls of ancient cave paintings. Helen’s farm in Aberdeenshire is surrounded by wildlife, a raven has recently taken up residence, his spirited company is caught on paper. Such drawings may or may not be translated into sculpture but they are fundamental to her creative process
Her work is widely recognized, resulting in world-wide commissions from Japan to South Georgia ranging from the 24 foot high giraffes in Edinburgh to delicate birds and insects. She has an extraordinary skill, born from her sense of draughtsmanship and observation, creating these graceful creatures from the discarded flotsam of our age.