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A Positive Journey with HELEN LACK, Contemporary Artist

Introduced by Marilyn Comparetto FRSA and Marysia Zipser

I first met Helen at ART @ MG, Mardlebury Gallery, in Datchworth four years ago when she presented me with her large abstract pieces. It was clear to see that she had unleashed her passion, emotions and vibrant energy on to the canvases using a kaleidoscope of luscious, thickly laid colours for all to see. Since then I have been following Helen’s incredible artistic journey and I have seen her soar to new heights. More recently Helen has been revealing her story around her own personal battle with cancer. Through this difficult journey Helen has given strength and encouragement to everyone around her…what an inspiration! Marilyn Comparetto

I have known and collaborated with Marilyn Comparetto at Datchworth and Stevenage, Hertfordshire, and here in Beeston, Nottinghamshire, for several years, and it was through our mutual social media that I connected with Helen Lack in January this year. The colourful vibrancy and dynamism of Helen’s artworks immediately grabbed me and pulled me in, making me keen to learn more about her as a person and her motivation. Marysia Zipser

So this has become a collaborative blog opportunity to showcase the impressive growth and range of Helen’s artistic development. Our six questions and her answers are below accompanied by photo images for you to understand and appreciate the positive and inspirational journey she has taken and is taking. ​ Please Click on the images to enlarge and hover over to read the Captions. *All artworks and photographs subject to copyright Helen Lack*

Q1. Your journey as a contemporary artist has an interesting beginning. Can you explain about it?

I started out many years ago in a different medium, as a fashion photographer, working in London and Australia. As a photographer I was always fascinated by detail, styling, creating a theme and storyline behind the photographic shoots. For many years, I worked with the top model agencies in London and Sydney creating test shots, casting models for model portfolios and doing editorial work for magazines. In Australia I worked as a photographer in advertising agencies undertaking commercial and corporate work. One of my highlights was working as a photographic assistant for one of the top fashion photographers in Australia, Graham Shearer, so I had the opportunity to work with both Elle and Vogue magazine. Graham Shearer

After some time, raising a family, I decided to have a break from fashion photography and explore different mediums. One day I happened to be in a cafe in Moggerhanger, Bedfordshire, when a leaflet caught my attention. It was about art lessons to be held in a small hall at Sandy, by an artist called Jean Picton. Jean comes from a theatre background and as soon as we met, I felt an instant connection. She would for a year, whilst I attended art classes, become my mentor. She inspired me in so many ways. Jean Picton Jean encouraged me “ to express my thoughts in an individual way”. Meanwhile, I just became determined to develop and try new techniques. A whole new world had opened for me and it was Art. After spending time having art lessons, I made the decision to go alone; solo and group exhibitions quickly followed and then Art Fairs in London and Galleries.

Q2. Your bravery, honesty, passion and resilience have shone through this year. Can you highlight this to our readers?

2020 has had a huge impact on myself, family and people around me. January began with the dream holiday, I returned back to Australia after 25 years; I used to live in Darwin and Sydney for ten years. It was an amazing experience to enjoy this wonderful country that means so much to me and share so many precious moments and memories with my dear family. Our trip was to take us through China, seeing many amazing sights in Beijing and visiting The Great Wall of China. Then we flew to Sydney and spent time enjoying the coastal walks, beaches, botanical gardens and Sydney Opera House. Our journey then took us to Port Douglas, north of Cairns which was immensely tropical and a beautiful place to visit.

Upon return to the UK, my life was to change dramatically!

One day in January, I discovered a lump in my breast, many tests and scans followed. Within four weeks I was given the diagnosis that I had Triple Negative Cancer.

This was one of the hardest moments in my life. This is a rare and aggressive form of cancer which does not respond to hormone receptors. It can spread easily and has a high recurrence rate within the first five years.

Suddenly, the weeks and months that passed were spent in hospitals, attending meetings with my medical team, tests and creating a medical plan for the future.

Alongside this anxious time, Covid 19 was on a global scale and the UK was in Lockdown. ​Attending hospitals meant wearing masks, gloves and taking every safety precaution necessary to prevent coronavirus. Schools shut and Universities closed which meant all my family were with me, which helped in many ways. Having my family and friends around me, during this difficult and challenging time has been an enormous support. Chemo treatment commenced and I became determined and focused to battle each day with what was put in front of me. Days were mixed, good and bad with many side effects, but I had many plans ahead.

Plans began with strength, bravery and to continue my passion to create art as much as possible. My early pieces all had hidden messages before I told the community about my diagnosis. Don't Speak, Hush Hush is a very sentimental artwork, it’s about me hiding my emotions about my cancer. It was a pure release of feelings alongside another piece titled Darling Hold My Hand, inspired by Jess Glynn's music track Jess Glynne | Official Website wanting comfort and loved ones around me. ​Another contemporary artwork called Peace followed, a calm piece with a similarity to Monet's Impressionism.

These Artworks will be exhibited in Paris in September, through Blossom Fighting Cancer who

discovered my work and loved them. Currently they are in Paris now.

In March when I started chemo treatment I decided to tell my personal story through art and photography. I opened up to all media, going to the BBC Three Counties Radio station, newspapers to discuss my tremendous effort to raise £150,000 for the Triple Negative Cancer Foundation for Cancer Awareness Day. I worked round the clock for a week raising money through social media and selling my contemporary artworks, where I donated the funds to this charity which I felt so strong about.

I felt pleased to have helped, and it really stays with me as one of the greatest achievements in my career.

March was a month of bad news. It came flooding in that I had a difficult year ahead but each time I thought, “I must use this time wisely and share my thoughts through art”. Art and Nature became my therapy. Nothing would stop me and then the fear of coronavirus began to loom, having an underlying medical condition meant I had to shield during lockdown.

Lifted Artwork inspired to lift the spirits of the frontline workers.

Tough months were to follow. I painted Believe in Me, Lifted, an artwork to lift the spirits of the NHS, Over the Rainbow and Documenting Covid19. Most of these artworks have now sold.

At the same time I worked harder and reached out to a greater audience with more online platforms both in the UK and internationally.

Having a rare and aggressive cancer has meant I have a different outlook. Now I take each day by day. I enjoy the simple things in life which I discovered during lockdown, taking walks alone, family and friend moments, photographing when inspired and both painting and illustrating.

My objective during lockdown was to see my artworks in public places, an important legacy

The contemporary artworks can be viewed at North Middlesex University Hospital, Watford ICU Ward, Edgware Community Hospital and North London Breast Screening Service, all of which have plaques on them and are displayed to staff, patients and the public. I’m honoured about this!

Q3. Your transition to an influential artist exhibiting in the UK and overseas. What is the drive that powers you and what are your key influences?

Having started working in the UK many years ago as an artist, I’m now in a position to choose where I exhibit, whether it be in London, Europe or America. Getting established as an international artist takes time, determination and hard work. Initially I would showcase my artwork at London Art Fairs and Galleries to put my work in front of influential Art collectors, buyers and galleries. This was exciting and an essential process of being an artist. Networking and marketing are an important exercise, whilst being an artist.

In the past few years, I have developed my work on an international basis, winning several awards - The Botticelli International Art Award for artistic merit in Italy and artwork published in International Contemporary Artists 2019. Also my work has features on the front cover of Aesthetics and Fine Art. There is an inner drive within me to show my artwork on a global scale, I feel it is significant that the public view it and I create an audience. One of my artworks titled Candy was on a huge digital screen in the Philippines, it was an exciting project.

In a few months, four selected artworks will be displayed at a prestigious gallery in Paris, which I’m privileged by, especially as this is through a non-profit organisation. In the past month I have been signed with an international art agency working in both Italy and America. The key influences come from myself, especially as I go through this cancer journey. It's important to me that I keep motivated and I thrive on new projects.

Q4. Which artists and what are you most influenced by?

As an artist in 2020 I find that I am influenced by many art movements and contemporary artists. The abstract expressionism movement in the 1950s with artists like Jackson Pollock always inspires me; Frank Kline with his feature, fluid brushstrokes that intersect, overlap and interact with one another are appealing, especially his colourful compositions that are full of energy and illustrate evolving aesthetic beauty. I’m drawn to artists who expel energy into their work, I relate to this as my contemporary artworks are individual, energetic and expressive. Another artist I admire is Paul Klee, especially his works titled Red Balloon and Highways and Byways, they have a unique style that resonates with me. Often my work is described to be similar to Monet, mainly characterised by quick brushstrokes, unique use of colour and light, plus “ fleeting impressions of everyday life”. It is these everyday scenes, location, messages, nature and people that influence what I create in my paintings. Monet, Renoir and Degas are masters that never cease to amaze me. Impressionism has to be one of my favourite avant garde art movements. In our current era, two street / graffiti artists that I respect are Socrate, a French street artist whose work is raw, bright, brash and has a sense of realism and photo real imagery. BASM is the mononym for a British street artist called George Cosmin; he uses stencils, spray paint and has an awareness for political happenings. His work has a strong style and aesthetic. Generally my artwork is affected by mood, emotion, current situations, society issues and messages which I incorporate into my art to evoke a greater sense of being.

Q5. Your creative process is fascinating. How has this developed and what springboards it?

I find different days bring various ideas, concepts and techniques to my art journey. In moments of energy I write or paint colour boards, moods and palettes, this helps to process the initial preparation, before an artwork. However, sometimes they just have to be spontaneous moments and I go into the studio with an idea and the canvas is created. It gives me pleasure when the latter happens. Often when the creativity flows, I will paint several pieces so there is a continuous feeling. Presently I get tired easily due to chemo treatment so I do not work for hours on end. Illustrations develop when I feel weak and lack strength. My work has matured and developed from years ago, though it is a journey which takes me into the unknown. Art has saved me through the cancer journey which I find myself on. Without it, there “would be a huge void”. Motivation and focus drive me each day. I write a journal that helps throughout these journeys of mine, it is a poignant time and remains special.

Q6. Finally, Helen, given your current health situation, what are you really looking forward to in your art direction and development?

Hope Artwork displayed at Edgware Community Hospital

Given my current health situation I have a long way still to fight. Each day is a battle and requires more strength than the last. It is both hard, mentally and physically, there are times when you feel helpless. I try to keep active as much as I can and create art regularly, as this helps to calm the mind and my art is my therapy. Future plans that I look forward to are raising more public awareness about my specific breast cancer and other types. In the art direction I wish to express the science of cells in future works, more exhibitions displaying work focused on Breast Cancer and the moods which go with it, from an artist’s perspective. I wish to campaign, fund-raise and do more charity work when my health is better, probably next year. Also I plan to continue with my journey, documenting events, moods, artworks and photography - it will be called ‘My Post Journey’. ​I wish to become a survivor of breast cancer, and be able to look back on this year and remember each and every day, each artwork and how I keep developing, as time goes by. I will evolve through my art. I have so much more to achieve and so many more artworks to produce, I will embark on many new facets of life and keep giving to my viewers and ever growing audience. HELEN LACK - Contemporary Artist "An Artist of our Time" All artworks and photographs subject to copyright Helen Lack ​​ Helen wishes to express her sincere thanks to her family, friends, galleries and community who support her every day. Art Gallery & GIFTS | ART at MG - Mardleybury Gallery | Datchworth BLOSSOM – The Pink Ribbon Foundation – Breast Cancer Charity London Art Fair, Manchester Art Fair | Art Exhibition 8-11 October 2020 Talented Art Fair - Talented Art Fair London Chelsea Arts Gallery Contemporary Fine Arts | Original Abstract Paintings Helen Lack Artists The Local Arts Scene Helen Lack – Art Contact artist producing large format statement paintings Artist profile: HELEN LACK | MonShareArt

We hope you’ve been inspired by Helen’s journey. If you have any comments to relay about this blog, we would love to hear from you in the Comments box (at the end of the photo galleries), Liking it, or/and via our contact links. Many thanks! Helen Lack with Marilyn Comparetto FRSA and Marysia Zipser

Below Artworks for Sale. *All artworks subject to copyright Helen Lack*


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