Helen Marten, Writing A Play (dark blue orchard), 2023
Helen Marten works across sculpture, painting, drawing, video, and writing to create a body of work that questions the stability of the material world and our place within it. Alluding to ideas, systems, and experiences, her work across media articulates complex investigations into the ways in which we exist and understand the world around us.
Her exactingly crafted artworks map a set of relations that cannot be named, as if to diagram the reciprocity between subjects and objects when the lines between them are increasingly blurred. Material is never what it seems, continually deployed in the mode of approximation—only to warp on closer inspection into something entirely other, reparsed into new relation. Her intricate works share an affinity for collage, or what she calls inlay: when disparate things abut or conjoin to obscure their edges and twist their meaning. Though intently material, Marten’s practice is rooted in language—its elastic metaphors and signifying chains—and the work’s sprawling references and density of detail reward close, embodied reading.
Marten’s work probes the boundaries between humble debris and highly sophisticated rendering, representation and artifice. The artist has expressed a particular interest in language, stating: “Language is a system that we know very well how to exploit and wrap around things. Words are communicating, but at the same time, they're tumbling about themselves in a knotty chaos of pictures and images.” Like her physical works, Marten's texts and titles reflect and reinforce her sense of both logic and play. There is a symbiotic relationship between the text and objects, titles and images found in the works—a kind of unusual topology or counter-mapping of our usual expectations of how these things function together. Her first novel, The Boiled in Between, was published in 2020; she is currently at work on her second, titled A Polite History of Vandalism.
The youngest recipient of Britain’s Turner Prize, Marten has spent over a decade expanding the network of ideas-made-substance for which she is known. She was included in the 2013 and 2015 Venice Biennales, and her work is held in public collections worldwide.
Helen Marten (b. 1985) lives and works in London. In 2016, Marten was awarded the Turner Prize and was the inaugural recipient of the Hepworth Prize for Sculpture. Past solo exhibitions of her work include Greene Naftali, New York (2023, 2021, 2016); Serpentine Gallery, London (2016); Fridericianum, Kassel (2014); Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York (2013); Kunsthalle Zurich (2012); and Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2012).
Her work is in the collections of the Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo; Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Julia Stoschek Collection, Düsseldorf; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Tate, London; and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, among others.
More information can be found on the artist's website.