Helen Snell


This particular series of paper and acrylic vessels explores the theme of survival. I produced the work as part of my residency at Plymouth College of Art and Design.

The initial impetus was a commission from Dartington Arts to work with veteran site-specific choreographer Stephan Koplowitz and his company Taskforce. LIQUID LANDSCAPES was a series of water related dance performances in Plymouth and my commission included producing an installation of over 300 multicoloured paper vessels that the dancers responded to at the Mayflower Steps.

The first designs were hand cut and focused on a simple shape based on a commercial packaging net. I then loaded it with imagery to produce a range of more complex laser-cut vessels. The boat can be seen as a life raft piled high with remnants of lost lands, a salvage vessel or Noah’s Arc. The devil is in the detail however; the imagery reveals that, in our rush to discover pastures new or to escape the exhausted and derelict, we bring with us unwanted passengers, be they stowaways in the form of non indigenous species, viruses, and voracious technologies, or simply our own inadequacies.

Trees become intertwined with storm clouds, fumes from factory chimneys intermix with streams of water, figures are engulfed by the waves. The images are inverted on each side of the boat and reflected underneath on mirror board, inescapable, endlessly repeatable.

The laser cutter exactly mimics the idiosyncrasies of my drawing and will endlessly cut and recut at the touch of a button, scorching the edges of the card with intermittent and incessant devilish flashes of light, burning the image into memory as if in  warning or chastisement.”

Laser cutting has allowed me to explore a range of different materials, to cut in much more detail and produce identical pieces in different sizes that can be systematically subverted.

This work is currently on display at Wolverhampton Art Gallery.