Cambridge Open Studios - Helena Hadjioannou
For the next 2 weeks in the run up to Cambridge Open Studios we will be featuring a selection of just some of the 240 artists taking part. Today we meet Helena Hadjioannou, landscape painter and photographer.
Please tell us how you started painting?
When I was at school, Art was not very high on the agenda but I found that I really enjoyed drawing, especially in the science class. Drawing bulbs, tubers etc. in our biology class was very enjoyable and I knew then that this was something that was to become very fulfilling.
I have been painting and taking photographs for quite some time now as I love being in nature and walking outdoors. Seeing weather and atmosphere inspires me to get into my studio and to start work.
Have you had any formal training?
I started painting as a mature student in a day class where I took photographs and used them as reference to my painting. I loved this so much that I decided to take it further and applied at AHEC (which is now Anglia Ruskin) to do a Foundation course. This then led me on to apply to Central St Martins for a Degree course and I graduated in 1996 in Fine Art Painting. I really had a great time there and enjoyed the course very much, it was great being with like minded people. I had to unlearn everything that I had learned up to that time and had to start looking within to find inspiration. It was a great transitional period for me.
Your landscapes are very futuristic, what is the inspiration behind your work?
I often think of how we as humans are constantly changing the landscape and wonder how much further we can push nature and its borders and boundaries, although I have great faith in that we as humans will be able to find solutions to the difficulties that lie ahead. There is so much misery and negativity on the news all the time that I feel that we need something to redress the balance and I find that when I am in my studio painting I can forget the world and its problems.
You recently started working on larger canvases, how do you find working on such a large scale?
I inherited these big stretchers from a dear friend I was at college with and felt that I had to make good use of them in her honour. When you are confronted with a big piece of white canvas it can be very daunting and exciting at the same time. I work intuitively and once I get the feel of how the work is going I am in my element and there is nothing else in the world but the paint, the canvas and myself, it sometimes feels that the work makes itself.
I understand you also do a lot of photography, does this influence your work in anyway?
In the past I used to use photography as a reference for the paintings, then photography became an Art form all on its own. I photograph nature’s patterns and re-use them in Photoshop to create landscape images from nature's drawings. I also use Photoshop to create images that merge painting with photography. I am a member of CamIris which is a Cambridge Women’s Photography Group. We are a supportive group and we hold regular exhibitions and workshops and have also published 2 books.
If you could learn a new skill, if you had the time, what would it be?
I am actually learning a new skill at the moment as I have done some glass fusion and now I am working on a Stained Glass window drawn on inspiration from some of my paintings.
Tell us about your studio space.
I love my studio space and it is my place of retreat. I feel so lucky to have this space to work in, but it almost feels that I have to have an extension soon in order to create space for all my work.
Describe your perfect day in your studio.
I don’t have a rigid set time for starting work but image making has become so part of my life that I am often painting in my head before I get into the studio. I get really excited when I am preparing and priming my canvas ready to start a new piece of work. When the white canvas is primed and ready I can’t wait to get in there to get started. There are often things that must be done before I can get in there and that is when I get a bit frustrated but that does not last long as I make sure that I am soon in there getting stuck in. It is like an adventure and a journey of discovery and I completely forget the passing of time. Sometimes my husband has to remind me to come into the house and get something to eat.
How long have you been doing Open Studios and how important is it for people to meet the artist in their working environment?
I have been doing Cambridge Open Studios every year since 2000 so this will be the 12th year and I love the experience. It is great to meet such interesting people over the years and to get feedback about the work. It is a great bonus to know that you have connected with other people on a level where words could not do justice. And it is good for people to come and to see where the work is made, to interact with the artist to find out what the work is about. I think that we are so lucky to have such a lot of talent in our region.
Do you have work in galleries or do you do shows / exhibitions elsewhere?
I have work in Kypriaky Gonia a gallery in Cyprus. I had my first solo exhibition in Cyprus in 2009 and have had shared exhibitions in London, Essex, and Cambridgeshire. Work sold has gone to London, USA, Brazil, Belgium, Cyprus and locally too. I am working toward an exhibition in Cyprus for 2012/13.
What are your ambitions for the future?
My ambition is that one day I will create a piece of work that takes my breath away. This is probably too ambitious but it is what keeps me in the studio working. I would like to hold more exhibitions especially in galleries and abroad.
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