Helen Redman: The Other Side of Birth
Article by Cathy Breslaw
“A mother speaks to her children through generations”. This quote by Terry Tempest Williams, printed on the first page of Helen Redman’s catalog ‘Lifelines’, describes the essence of Redman’s work as an artist. Redman’s art is courageously expressed through the lens of herself in relationship to motherhood and grandmother-hood. Rather than hiding her gender as many female artists of her generation have done, Redman faces it all head-on. Both her identity and life challenges as a woman and mother take central stage in her paintings and drawings in this retrospective exhibition. For Redman, her role as an artist is inextricably linked to her family as she documents the stages of pregnancy, birth, grief from the death of a child, and the growth of her children and grandchildren at various points into adulthood.
Redman began her ‘Lifeline’ series in the early 1960’s. Her realistic but expressionistic style of drawing and painting have remained consistent throughout the years. Her use of color, form, shape and patterns provide us with direct clues about how Redman was feeling and thinking at any particular point in time each work was created. Using a range of materials – pen and ink, oil pastel, acrylic and oil paint and mixed media, on surfaces ranging from paper, canvas, to wood, Redman’s figurative works also tackle the female through stages of menopause and aging. Though Redman’s work has connections to female painters like Frida Kahlo and Alice Neel, Redman’s work is more intimate and personal. ‘Lifelines’ is a life-chronicle that along with her family who are fortunate enough to have their lives documented in such a personal way, we can appreciate and perhaps see some of ourselves mirrored in the process.