Meet the 2019-20 Zsuzsi Roboz Scholars: Helen Johannessen
For 2019-20 we have welcomed two new Zsuzsi Roboz art scholars to Morley - Helen Johannessen and Jenny Bell. We sat down with Helen to find out more about her art and what she hopes to get out of the scholarship.
How did you get started as an artist?
"I studied Ceramics BA Hons at Middlesex University 1991-1995 and had a career in the industry working with functional ceramics until 2015. I had my own business and made moulds and models for other creatives – I still do actually – and I’ve also taught part-time since 1999 in universities, colleges and schools.
"In 2015 I decided to shake it all up and went to the Royal College of Art and studied for my Master’s degree – during this time I pursued a new direction in my personal work, and it's one that I have been developing since."
How would you describe your type of art?
"Although I use porcelain, my work is quite painterly, graphical and interactive in a visual and tactile way – it is quite hard to photograph and details don’t translate on the screen. I use the surfaces that ceramic can achieve to draw the viewer in and question what they see, maybe even disconcert them here and there. At the moment I do this with wall pieces, sculptural forms and suspended work to move around within."
Tell us a bit about your artistic vision and style.
"I enjoy illusionary qualities and not accepting what I see at face value, I am playful with my work and enjoy responding to my environment. My vision is to work with displaying my work in larger spaces – thinking about scale, light and shadows; creating figuratively immersive landscapes."
How did you hear about the Zsuzsi Roboz Scholarship, and why did you decide to apply?
"I saw it advertised online in a few places that keep artists up to date with opportunities. I decided to apply because I want to deepen my practice and focus my imagination; I've changed my work quite dramatically, which takes time and dedication, and having support is quite crucial in a new phase. I have lots of things I want to explore and I knew that the scholarship could offer this, so I’m delighted to have been successful in gaining it."
What do you hope to get out of the scholarship?
"I hope to expand the range of materials I work with and dialogue for my concepts and ideas. Working with the range of tutors and expertise at Morley is exciting. I’d really like this to be the launch of a body of work that summarises and expresses my creative thoughts at this time."
Is there anything in particular that you hope to learn, or an existing skill that you hope to develop further?
"My ceramic porcelain work is quite fine and I hope to learn ways to work with metal for example; to become part of displaying or framing it. I use screen printing with clay and have never done any formal print work before, so I'll be taking courses in that area to complement my skills and learn new approaches. Colour and texture are important to me, so will be doing some painting to see where that may lead. I’m also doing some photography to capture how I see the world and interact with it. Oh, and some soundscape workshops. That’s quite a lot, isn’t it?! I’m a curious individual…"
You can see more of Helen's work on her website at www.helenjohannessen.co.uk, or follow her on Instagram at @helenjohceramics. To find out more about the Zsuzsi Roboz Art Scholarship, visit our information page, and to keep up with the current scholars and see the work of our scholarship alumni, visit our Art Scholarship blog.