Take Five with Helena Appio
Helena Appio is a multi faceted creative with parallel careers as an award-winning film-maker, textile designer, artist, writer and educator. Her creative output defies easy classification but exhibits a profound commitment to the stories of humble people existing outside the media limelight, whose everyday work makes a difference in the world.
Helena has recently created a suite of paintings, 'The Wisdom Of Angels' combining imaginative portraits of women with the talismanic iconography of traditional African indigo textile designs. 'The Wisdom Of Angels' draws our attention to the women who distribute good wishes and the protection of love, without name or acknowledgement. It is a tribute, celebrating female industry and creativity, and holds a critical mirror to the hierarchy in Western art criticism between ‘fine art’ and ‘craft’. It is also a manifestation of Helena's intention to extend the magical tradition – each piece is intended to act as a shrine, conveying a blessing to its audience.
In your professional life, what is the single best thing about what you do?
I love working in many different mediums, painting, film making, drawing and writing. My perfect project would be one where I can bring all these elements into one place. I’m currently working on a multi media, partially written, partially graphic novel, partially filmic piece about my mother! Ideally I’d like the project to include images of embroideries I created about her and fragments of films that I have produced about her.
Do you have a creative hero / heroine and if so, why?
I admire all those women artists who just kept on working whether they received recognition in their lifetimes or not, so, Alma Thomas, Frida Khalo, Annie Albers, Elaine de Kooning, Harriet Powers.
What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?
I made a documentary for The Arts Council many years ago called “A Portrait Of Mr Pink”.(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXh_sho2NGw) Mr Pink had come to the UK in the 1960s from Jamaica and had bought a house in Lewisham, London which he decorated himself with vibrant colours both inside and out. It became a local land mark. I found the experience of making the film profoundly moving. Mr Pink had created a world for himself and had not allowed the opinions of others to influence his creativity. At one point in the film he says about his house, “Some people may like it, some people may not, but I like it myself”. His attitude taught me not to compare myself to others and to accept that not everyone will like everything you create.
If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it?
Have a rest, go out, see a film, go to an exhibition, meet friends and take some inspiration from life, then start again, things often don’t look so bad after a rest. If a piece of work is really not what you want it to be, try re working it, cutting it up using parts of it as a collage etc.
And finally, for fun, if you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why?
I’d be a sparkly shoe of many different colours covered with all sorts of feathers, jewels and embroidery. I trained as a textile designer and I can’t resist collecting buttons, fake jewels, votive ornaments, sequins and vintage embroidery.