A Wilderness of my Own is the title of a new book by the visual artist, writer and musician Helen Gaynor which tracks her creative journey through two years of restricted living.
The diary of an artist in lockdown is published in hard back and full colour and contains poetry, prose, photographic and painted images, drawings and collages side by side with lists, notes and other references to ordinary life in extraordinary times.
The launch is in Wexford Library on Thursday, July 7 at 7pm and and will include a poetry reading and two short introductions from an artistic and environmental perspective. All are welcome to attend.
Helen said an Artlinks bursary in 2021 made it possible to start the project which might have been abandoned altogether if it hadn’t been for the support.
A considerable amount of work had already been done by then but the challenge was to find a way of presenting it. The finished result is the culmination of another year of work and looks visually quite different to what she had originally conceived.
"That didn’t surprise me at all. That’s how it is when I’m working on a painting. There is an intention and a starting point and after that it takes on a life of its own.”
The book’s title grew from a painting of a wilderness of plant forms with bindweed wrapping its way around them. As well as tackling the painted wilderness, Helen was attempting to manage two two real garden wildernesses, noting that for those who do not live in rural areas, nature can be seen insinuating its way into built-up environments.
Lockdown gave many people the opportunity to observe nature closely and during evening walks with her dog Cleo, Helen herself was inspired by the imagery of branches silhouetted against night skies, blossoms bursting forth, neon light illuminating leaf and branch and greenery settling in pavement cracks – this was the melting pot from which her paintings and the book emerged.
With a foreword by visual arts curator Catherine Bowe, the publication includes a series of poems on topics closely allied to nature, in particular bird life, and aspects of life in a pandemic.
It is a record and an expression of two strange years as the artist struggled with changes in her living circumstances, loss and creativity. Her canine companion Cleo died and illnesses and other sad deaths were experienced as Covid continued.
“In the end, it is the simple things that give us joy and to which we owe our sanity’, said Helen. “Sowing seeds, literally and metaphorically, and growing things, flowers, paintings, books are monumental exercises in positivity, without which we cannot endure”.
She said that putting the book together was an all-consuming endeavour ably assisted by Lynda Harman of Chameleon Creatives that allowed her an opportunity to gain perspective on the period, to recognise the positive aspects of it and to find joy in the knowledge that grounding yourself in nature has much to offer in an increasingly technological age.
She likes to think that what the publication most represents is hope, in the form of a chink of light and beauty arising from a time of shadow and darkness and she fervently believes that as humans, we need to use our awareness and knowledge wisely and make acts of reparation, however small, to our damaged planet.