An excerpt from my notebook

by Helen Barker

“When I draw a line on a surface it travels through it, intersecting space and causing the eye to follow its trajectory. It creates a rupture on the paper, breaking it apart yet not quite segregating it. Line is similar to a knife that cuts through butter -the history of its path remains and the gesture is forever present.

When I colour in the space between the lines something radically different happens. The feeling of movement is halted and form finds itself centre stage – a stamp of physicality defined by the boundaries of its shape. Red. Blue. Green. Chunks of space are taken over and inhabited. Any space that is not occupied by colour becomes far more evidently absent. Thus, the backgrounds which were previously interrupted by the flicker of a line become stagnant stark white chasms, causing the objects in them to float around like lost debris in space. Line becomes object and background becomes object too. What was once a flat plane gains foreground and distance – just by colour.

As I left the studio and walked to the station I began to think about the problem of todays drawings. I thought back to my paintings Two and Seven and how they held together much more successfully. Then I realised, the backgrounds in the paintings were as much ‘object’ as the objects in the foreground. The plane was flat again – which is why they bear so much resemblance to pattern or graphic motif. Instead of composing the ‘things’ and trying to work the background around them, I had to start with the background – which would then becomes the foreground and eventually a unified whole.

For the paintings Two and Seven I had begun with some photos of geological forms of rocks to construct a space in which to work. I don’t know why this hadn’t occurred to me today. Perhaps simply taking a detour away from painting and experimenting with drawing was enough to throw my work into question. But I am glad it did – today has been a good way to think through some of my research into the ‘thing’ and the ‘line’. ”