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Midi Music Festival, Beijing. 2007
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Helen Couchman lived as a child in Wales, Kent, Staffordshire and Hampshire. In 1991 she moved to London, where she completed a BA in Fine Art at Sir John Cass College in 1996, and an MA in Critical Fine Art Practice at St Martin’s School of art in 1998.
Couchman has exhibited widely, both in the United Kingdom and internationally, frequently producing new bodies of work during residencies, which have also resulted in solo exhibitions. Among these are Linebuilding at the London College of Communication (2005), and Streetscape at Peckham Women’s Centre, London (1997) International residencies include periods at Cyprus College of Art (July to August 2003) and Vermont Studio Center, USA (2005). In 2006 Couchman accepted an invitation to work in China, a trip which culminated in a solo show, Gift, at the Dashanzi International Art Festival (DIAF) in Beijing (2006). Moving to Beijing in early 2007, Couchman published her first book there, WORKERS 工人, in June 2008. This substantial project, extracts from which have been exhibited both in London and in Hong Kong, took the form of a large series of portraits of the men and women who laboured to build the central stadium and other key buildings within the Olympic Village constructed for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Her second book, Mrs West’s Hats, was published in November 2009. This work consists of sixty self-portraits made by the artist in 1997, its title referring to Couchman’s maternal grandmother, whose splendidly eccentric collection of hats Couchman models in the photographs. Made up to look like a young woman of the 1940s and ’50s, the piece touches on many themes including representation and self-portraiture, fashion, identity and historical or generational transmission.
More recently, Couchman has produced a new work, a photographic series titled Untitled (Collecting and Dropping) (2009). Within a series of 245 tightly composed photographs we see a large Chinese fan, supported by the artist and obscuring her naked body. As we follow the implied narrative the figure behind the fan is seen to progressively decorate the front of the object while at the same time letting (or helping?) this fragile picture, shield or screen deteriorate considerably.
Couchman’s solo exhibitions also include ‘Mrs West’s Hats’, First Floor Gallery, Yerevan, Armenia (2004) ‘Gift’, Third Floor Contemporary, Beijing (2006), ‘New Work’, Gallery Perif, Beijing (2007) ‘Cloud series, Yellow lining’ TINAG ‘Festival on Cities’, London (2010) and ‘There was no single reason for me to be there at first’ a site specific piece for The Photographer’s Gallery, London (1999).
Aside from solo shows the artist has contributed to a number of group exhibitions, including ‘The Artful Scriptorium’, Climate Gallery, New York, (2010), ‘There and Everywhere’, Transition Gallery, London (2009), ‘China in Motion’, Phase 2, London (2008), ‘Solutions for a Modern City’, Hong Kong (2008), ‘Future Landscapes’, Shewsbury Museum and Art Gallery, UK (2005), ‘Uncommon Ground’, Artsway, Hampshire (UK) (2004), ‘Sodium Blindness’, APT, London (2000), ‘find(found)’, 4 New Burlington Street, London (1997) and’Contemporary Chinoiserie’, Collyer Bristow Gallery, London (2008).
Helen Couchman continues to live and work between Beijing and London..
For more information and to purchase books by Helen Couchman see: www.soloshowpublishing.comHelen Couchman 's current location:
Athens , Greece
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