Helen Sargeant


Helen Sargeant



Artist Statement

Sargeant makes artwork about the female body, identity and mental fragility. She works across drawing, painting, photography, sound, video, performance and installation to explore her ideas.

Sargeant's arts practice is communicated through the visceral physical reality of the female body and psychological contexts. The work combines fiction and autobiography. Central to this practice is the utilisation of lived experience as a way to communicate emotions directly to an audience by making the personal public.

"We are born and we make marks through the vapour of our first breath, through our first excrement and from the saliva of our mouths enclosing around our mothers breasts."

– Helen Sargeant

Recent drawings represent the vulnerability and power of the biological body through pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. The pregnant body is schematised and seen as, a vessel or a holding place. Dr Jacques Rangasamy writes:

"In her drawings, the space of pregnancy overflows the confines of the body; expectations are transmuted into feelings, and are located in parts of the body that are connected by tubular structures, the curved flights of single arrows and what appears as knotted ropes or rosary beads. It is perhaps an echo of the intelligence of life as it is instinctually felt rather than reasoned and rationalised. And therefore more authentic.In the way Chinese artists use ink as a symbol of the creative potential of the Tao, or primordial essence, Helen Sargeant uses ink to represent the bodily fluids essential to the alchemy of life. The ink and the forms it engenders form part of the same organic nature."

Drawings representing birth were recently published in Studies in the Maternal visual editor Rebecca Baillie writes:

"In her series’ of birth drawings Sargeant unites the public practice of watching YouTube birth videos with the more personal experience of giving birth oneself. The drawings aim to expose both the physical and emotional experience of birth, paying attention to feelings of emotional detachment during the delivery of her sons The birthing body is explored as an indicator of cultural and social anxiety, giving voice to pain and trauma beyond that of the actual birth."

Images documenting breastfeeding through drawings and photography look to show maternal jouissance and the sensual pleasures of the mother baby relationship. Maternal subjectivity is further explored within recent photographs documenting a performance where Sargeant bakes at home with her children to make loaves of bread formed into birthing figures that are subsequently eaten by her family at breakfast. Another performance documents her baking bread from the dust in her vacuum cleaner. Throughout this practice Sargeant seeks to explore, challenge and critique normative discourses and idealised representations of motherhood.




“Helen Sargeant,” Artist Parent Index , accessed July 15, 2024, https://www.artistparentindex.com/items/show/32.

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