Sasha Helinski


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Sasha Helinski
About the author

As an artist, I have always been attracted to color, pattern, form and contrast and the juxtaposition of the four. My work is an exploration of these elements and their relationships. It’s led me to experimentation with painting and the ways in which we experience it visually. From an early age, I have been interested in line and how I can manipulate it. I keep a sketchbook, which I use primarily for drawing and collaging colors, and patterns I find in magazines. Shapes from these collages and drawings often re-emerge onto canvases or as wood cutouts in bold, vivid colors. The organic shapes, which resonate throughout my work, were ultimately derived from my interest in bones, specifically bones found on my grandparents’ desert property in Montana. Despite their strong abstract quality, many of the forms found in my work are in fact blind-contour, silhouette drawings of antelope and cow bones. In my paintings, I contrasted these with rhythmic patterns of repetitive, but irregular, dashes over monochrome backgrounds to create optical illusionistic imagery. The marks themselves are both individual in their irregularity and part of a larger pattern, which plays with the geometric shape of the canvas, and the negative space left by the forms. Together, they engage the viewer intellectually in a way reminiscent of the decoration of early Muslim mosques. These paintings have evolved to my current work, which is a continuation of this visual vocabulary through more sculptural means. I had been wrestling with the idea of composition and how to further my practice of experimentation with form, color, and pattern when I visited the MoMA’s exhibition on Picasso’s sculptures. These, along with Calder’s mobiles, which I’ve been familiar with since a young age, gave me the inspiration to create my more recent pieces involving mixed media and in particular woodcuts, displayed as pieces themselves or as compositional components. The idea of “found objects” is an important one to my work. I look at my paintings as tributes to the bones I discovered in Montana, memorials to things that once were part of something greater, left discarded, and then picked up again to be a part of something bigger than themselves. I have continued this process through my wood reliefs, using the “scraps” or leftover pieces from my hanging triptych, to create new compositions. While each piece differs in material and composition: with bone shape, color, and texture, whether the patterns emerge as background environments or on the forms themselves, the collection remains a series through the familiarity between the shapes, pattern-making and my flat, color-blocking style of painting. I am currently an undergraduate studying visual arts at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York.