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#21

Helen Sykes was born in London in 1967.
She studied at Kingsway College, London,1994
and Central St Martins College of Art and Design, 1998.
She lives and works in London and Norwich.

The walls of the gallery are hung with twenty-three identical frames, each one containing a drawing on a single page. There are slight variations in the drawing media - brush and ink, pen and ink - and seven of the drawings are smaller, on a different tone of paper, but the overall impression is consistent, the handling is simple and apparently casual. The sequence of drawings depict the details of a suburban scene, - shrubs, hedging, lamp posts and single storey buildings - their story board character suggesting a journey through this setting, but one without a plot or obvious start or finish.


A discussion between Kaavous Clayton and Helen Sykes via email on 29th June 2006.

Kaavous Clayton: What is it about the subject of 'walkies' that attracts you?

Helen Sykes: Dogs need and look forward to their daily walks. Most owners will tell you that they can't say the word without their dog running around and dashing for the lead. Putting the word into conversation means spelling out the letters, so the dog won't understand. For most owners 'walkies' is a kind of invisible action, done in between other jobs. The action has a routine nature. I thought it might be a good starting point for a series. I liked the domestic nature of the action.

KC: And once you started from that point where did the journey take you?

HS: Literally, round the block.... and sometimes through the back of Costessey and over Bunker Hill. Going on the walks had a repetitive nature, so that the scenes started to become ingrained in my psyche. The more I looked, the more I saw. Every time I went on the walk I noticed something new. Little things. Nuances.

KC: Were you trying to examine the surroundings from the point of view of the walker or the walked?

HS: Hmm. I think a bit of both. I tried to look at everything from the point of view of a dog. So that there were no degrees of importance in things seen. I didn't literally get down to the dog's level, though I did consider this, and might explore this further. It was more about relationships between objects. Dogs find twigs and dandelions interesting. They notice things in a very open way. I was trying to learn from this. But I was also interested in the state of mind of the owner walking a dog. One of my sisters tells me that walking the dogs brushes away the cobwebs, and other dog walkers have expressed similar feelings. I was interested in this state of mind.

KC: The paper you have used seems quite distinctive; did you find it on one of the walks?

HS: No. I didn't find the paper on the dog walks, though the paper I chose was important. It had belonged to other people before me. I think I had things thrown away in mind. You know the way you sometimes find old sheets of newspaper floating around. Litter is very sad.

KC: The potential narrative that is within the series of drawings ties in well to the cartoon-like style and represents the unfolding journey of a walk. Is it important that they are seen together?

HS: It is nice to see the series together. I suppose they could be called scenes, because narrative is underlying the work, but I would call it an open narrative, as there is no fixed beginning or end, and each piece poses a question 'what am I seeing, and what is its nature?' Using a kind of cartoon language seemed an appropriate way of asking this. I like the honesty. There is an integrity to the language of the cartoon, and it goes back a very long way, especially if you look at Chinese and Japanese ink drawings from the thirteenth or fourteenth century.

KC: And if you can't take a dog for a walk then why not take a line.

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