Helvie’s partially photorealistic oil painting, Pipe Smoker (Cyclops), greets viewers with two enthusiastic thumbs up, its overwhelming optimism clashing with its own distorted predicament. The horned, fleshy, pipe smoking mass seems to say, “cool", but everything is clearly, "not cool." Things are only as good as they can be when you're the lovechild of a horror film and an emoji.
The smoking pipe appears again in a photorealistic painting of an aircraft carrier inexplicably turned on its side. For Pipe Smoker (Leviathan), Helvie sourced imagery of a WWll battleship from the National Archives’ internet database and after painstakingly rendering the image in oils, proceeded to paint over the vessel with a layer of cartoon-like scales, as if the ship itself were being taken down by some giant, hazy, pipe-smoking sea monster.
Other works included in the exhibition, such as Nool, Cave Ghost, and Peter, are layered in both visual reference and textured material. Thick oil paint and bubbling scales are veiled by richly pigmented scraps of fleece which were aggressively cut from pink, purple, and green Snuggies. The paintings are rich, striking, and intriguingly cryptic.
And that’s exactly the point: the works in NOOL are products of intuitive association. During the painting process, Helvie allows abstract shapes to dictate and ultimately determine the piece's own final reference, which this time around has landed in the territory of the Pipe Smokers, Leviathan, the Cyclops, and even Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. Nothing is censored or filtered and judgement is deliberately postponed. The results are wild, specific objects, rich in cultural and political reference, completely autobiographical, and saturated in Internet free-form association.
Born in Portland and raised in South Africa, Eric Helvie lives and works in NYC. His work has been reviewed in ArtFuse, The Unlimited Magazine, and featured in The Daily Beast. His paintings are included in numerous private collections. The gallery will be publishing a catalogue to coincide with the exhibition. For work availability and press inquiries, please email email@example.com