Art career best medicine for ex-nurse

Sheffield artist Helen Purdie exhibition '16 Paintings' at Harland Cafe with cafe owners Steve and Sara Bradley
Sheffield artist Helen Purdie exhibition '16 Paintings' at Harland Cafe with cafe owners Steve and Sara Bradley

ALTHOUGH keen on art as a youngster, Helen Purdie gave it up for a career in nursing and only resumed painting after 20 years. Now she is showing an exhibition of her work at the Harland Café on John Street.

In 2009, she left a career in the NHS to pursue her art practice full-time which she marked with an exhibition she held along with Jonathan Michaels at the Clocktower Gallery at the Northern General Hospital. “That exhibition, Another Self, was concerned with exposing aspects of ourselves little seen in our professional roles” says the artist.

“The current exhibition shows some of the paintings that I have created since that exhibition, a number of which are on relatively large canvases. Also included are three paintings that I did whilst at school, recently rediscovered in my Mother’s attic.”

When placed alongside her current work, they show that concerns with colour, tone and form have always been an important form of expression in her work.

The tensions between representation and abstraction provide evidence of psychological content in the paintings, but Purdie says she most often finds her subject in the immediate, optical experience of her environment. Her eye is naturally drawn upwards and therefore diagonals and sky figure strongly.

As to the process, there is no pre-drawing on the canvas and instead paintings evolve in composition and colour as the paint is applied.

At the beginning of this year Purdie exhibited a series of limited edition prints of her travel pen-drawings at the Harland Café and such was the interest that owners Steve and Sara Bradley asked for more “The café is a lively venue for cultural events and we like to support local artists by encouraging them to show their work here. This is the first time a single artist has used the whole café as an exhibition space.”

Purdie’s prints are currently exhibited and for sale at the Bessemer Gallery in the Winter Garden and at the Curo Gallery in Hillsborough.

Four of her paintings, three of which are of Endcliffe Park, will be exhibited and for sale at the Snig Hill Gallery in the city centre in June.

The first of a series of monthly exhibitions to be held at the Harland Café by local artists, Helen Purdie will hold a preview on Friday, 7pm-9.30pm and it will continue until July 10.