My work extends many of the ideas of portraiture and psychological exploration. The power of the portrait image always fascinates me. But rather than create anachronisms for their own sake, I choose to use such imagery and technique as a point of departure for exploring a world that is idiosyncratic, personal, and capable of transcending time and place. The surfaces of the paintings are varied, but they are always alive. The multiple layers of consciousness are explored as I create, construct, reveal and expose areas of the work. I see myself not just as a portrait painter but rather as a commentator of the histories and experiences of people I know and the community in which I live. I see myself as a contemporary history painter.
During recent years my work has focused not just on portraiture but also on nature as a means of documenting a region that I am visiting. In 2011 I was invited to be artist in residence on a field trip to Rwanda. I joined a team of scientists in the Volcanoes National Park a region that straddles the border between Rwanda and the Congo. These scientists examined the impact of environmental changes on gorillas in the region, and on how environments have changed in the recent past. Inspired by this residency my work looked at the experiences of the people I met in Rwanda and the human- environment interactions researched by the scientists. Many of the paintings are based loosely on real environmental scenarios. The day-to-day challenges faced by those living in poverty, the clearing of forests for subsistence farming and its impact on the mountain gorilla, the impact of the population on the land, and how implementing sustainable forms of development can have beneficial impact the local communities. In these human narratives I try to convey at least a small fragment of the complex story of the people I met in Rwanda. For me, these images I am creating function as reflecting pools of our times.
Helen Dalton is an Irish painter. Her portraits were described by Aidan Dunne in the Irish Times as “exceptionally sympathetic”. She has been awarded residencies in USA, Costa Rica Spain, Ireland and Rwanda. Her residency at Rimbun Dahan in July 2014 was funded by the Irish Arts Council.