by Helen Barker

It’s come to my attention that much of my work orbits around the epicenter of an absence. That is, a hole. This is both disconcerting (is the heart of my practice lacking?) and enticing (I journey around my very own Bermuda Triangle, pulled towards a possible alternate existence not yet seen).

Holes litter my work, punctuating it like Swiss cheese. They don’t always appear in the shape of the traditional, cartoon hole (a black circle), nor are they confined to physical perforations (like hole punched paper). Often, they fluctuate in size. Growing and shrinking like living, breathing things.

When thinking about the reason for my obsession with holes I came up with the following list:

1. Possibility

2. Presence

3. Punctuation


Possibility : IDEA

I recall reading a lot of literature as a child which used the concept of holes to proffer alternate realities. Fiction uses holes to transport people through worlds. Falling down the rabbit hole of reality characters experience fantasy adventures, dig their way into new lives and get sucked into time and space. Holes are a possibility, a chance to play with the idea of something other. As an artist, the idea of something other is often at the crux of my creative drive. It’s the what if of existence.

Presence : VISUALLed-Zeppelin-Presence-1976-LP--Front-Cover-34058

During my MFA I found myself drawn repeatedly to the image on the cover of Led Zeppelin’s LP ‘Presence’. To me, this image proposed a conundrum. Situated around a black monolith like object, characters seemed to be touching a parallax. Was the black object something or nothing: was it a presence, or was it an absence? A black symbol of materiality or a black void? The ability for a hole to be both there and not there intrigued me. Holes have always been an important part of my image making process. The very act of making a hole seems inconsistent with its nature. Can we see a hole or not? 

executioners-axe-and-blockPunctuation : LANGUAGE

When writing my dissertation in 2010/11 I used the illustration of an execution to think through the concept of a full stop. A full stop, it seemed to me, was a very complicated piece of punctuation. Acting as a point of exit in language, the full stop closes down a sentence. An execution enacts a full stop on life, and yet there remains a question mark – winking in the distance. Like a hole, the full stop seeks permanence and mystery at the same time. Will there be another sentence? Or is the execution the final word?

There it is, three very briefly explored reasons for holes in my work.