1 SEPT - 21 SEPT 2018

As Artist in Residence at The Lock-Up, Helen Britton will be exploring and revisiting her roots in Newcastle to develop a new body of work titled 'Industrial' further.


1 - 23 SEPTEMBER 2018

Helen Britton grew up in Newcastle and started her undergraduate studies at the University of Newcastle. Since leaving Newcastle she has gone on to study in both Australia and Germany and has established an internationally recognised career as an artist and formidable reputation as one of the world’s most noted jewellers. Her work is informed by her experience of the vast and layered history reflected in the built environment, as she meticulously constructs pieces using precious metals, glass, stones and occasional collected components. As well, Helen’s work is a meditation on her own history as she engages with artefacts that act as powerful triggers to memory and association. 

In recent years Helen has based several bodies of work on the experience of growing up in Newcastle, in what was then an industrial city. The title of this work group is Industrial. As Artist in Residence at The Lock-Up Britton’s will be exploring and revisiting her roots to develop this work further. Britton has said of Industrial: “The work that has been produced so far is purely based on the memory of that experience, without current geographical and cultural contextual experience. My interest would be to now revisit Newcastle and seek traces of that particular moment in time alongside trying to understand what has happened in the interim and what that city has become and could continue on to be.  My intention then would be to create a body of work in response to a combination of those early formative experiences and the experience of returning.” 


A tiny girl stands in an enormous factory. They are casting steel: steel for ships, steel for the mines. Nearby the ships will be built; that she knows. The steel pours, the men like ants in scale, the heat, the stench, the noise, it leaves a strong impression. Later on, she would often come back to that part of town, not only for the steel and the ships, but also for the gritty screaming post-punk bands in the Workers Clubs, whose sounds would form the basis of the musical accompaniment of her life till this day. Now, almost 40 years later: a post-industrial city in Europe. No steelworks, no bright clear beaches (where the massive ships sometimes end broken in the winter storms).  

Where do these tracks now lead and what do they allow? Steel bridges, steel lines in the snow, construction site grey dust, an assemblage of materials that will be ordered and built back into the cold, greasy grey. Stretch all those years of looking, that line of experience back again to the steelworks. Pour that music in through the ears and out through the hands. Cut that line deep in the shapes, organize the elements, tie them down and connect them all together again. There you have it: an explanation. 


Helen Britton completed a Master of Fine Arts by research at Curtin University, Western Australia in 1999, which included guest studies at the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, the Sandberg Institute, Amsterdam, and San Diego State University, California. In 1999, she returned to Munich to complete postgraduate study at the Academy of Fine Arts under professor Otto Künzli. In 2002, she established her workshop in Munich with David Bielander and Yutaca Minegishi. 

Helen’s work continues to be exhibited internationally and is kept in the permanent collections of National Gallery of Australia, The Pinakothek der Modern, Munich, The Schmuck Museum Pforzheim, The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Boston Museum of Fine Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Hermatige, St Petersburg, The Victoria and Albert Museum, London among others. 

In 2005 Helen was awarded the Herbert Hofmann prize for excellence in contemporary jewellery and in 2006 the State Prize of Bavaria for craftsmanship. In March of 2011 Helen Drutt-English launched a new catalogue of Helen Britton’s work in Munich. In 2013 at the invitation of The Neue Sammlung, Munich, an overview of 20 years of Helen's work was shown as a solo exhibition in the Neues Museum, Nürnberg, Germany. In 2013 Britton was awarded the Förder Preis of the city of Munich, and in 2014 was artist in residence at Villa Bengel in Idar-Oberstein. In 2015 Helen Britton was Artist in Residence at Vasse Felix in Western Australia. In 2017 Helen created the exhibition "Interstices" at The Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, UWA, Western Australia - a complete overview of her practice in conjunction with the Festival of Perth.