Fascination has its origins in a preoccupation and deep fascination with the natural and direct approach that children often have to the surrounding world and its living organisms.
Formally the photographs in the exhibition share no common features. On the other hand the gathering together of these works manifests the diversity of the artist – and thus also what the photograph can do as a medium. Aesthetically, however, the exhibited works do all involve an element of this “childlike” immediacy and fascination with the world: comparisons in which the imagination points the way. In the series Diviner the willow trees were photographed over a period of two years. The imprints on the trunks show that the water level in the area was once higher, which is why the roots are now visible. The roots look to Sear like the large hoop skirts that the women of the Spanish Court wore in the seventeenth century.
In the series Twice Once: 2XDH we see portraits of Sear’s friends, taken in the 1990s. The pictures were made by combining two negatives bent such that only the edges of the negatives touch the paper in the darkroom. The prints made this way were then re-photographed and printed. Thus the photograph both reveals and conceals something and in the end lets the imagination decide which is right.
A photograph, with its true-to-life elements, can thus to a very great extent help to influence our understanding of how we see, experience and relate to the world, and so guides us towards certain views and attitudes. The photograph is on the one hand a constructed, manipulated object, but on the other hand manifests a duality, inasmuch as we associate it with something real. For the same reason it is from here that the imaginary can be explored, thinks Sear.
Helen Sear (b. 1955) read Fine Art at Reading University and the Slade School, University College, London. Her work was prominent in the British Council’s exhibition De-Composition: Constructed Photography in Britain in 1991, which toured Latin America and eastern Europe. Her works are in several private and public collections, including the National Museum of Wales, the Glynn Vivian Museum and Gallery Swansea, Wales, Ernst & Young, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Arts Council of Wales, the Arts Council of Great Britain and the British Council.