helen doherty s studio process so far december 2012 n.
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Helen Doherty’s studio process so far- December 2012. Bust of John Wesley (1840-1855).

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bust of john wesley 1840 1855
Bust of John Wesley (1840-1855)

This bust of John Wesley (1840-1855) I chose for various reasons. Probably the most important, in retrospect, is that it was the most striking object – being a solid black and depicting a historical personality, and therefore a narrative -in the display cabinets of Llanelly pottery. I was also intrigued by the gaze of the figure, which is directed upwards, and consequently makes the viewer less important than the subject of his gaze.

plate of mari jones 1910
Plate of Mari Jones (1910)

I chose this plate , again made by the Llanelly pottery because it was engaging- the girl has a direct gaze- handpainted, and quite simplistically realised. It also stood out in the shelf full of transfer ware and the witches hat also intrigued me. Again the narrative embedded in the work is what drew me.

where is john wesley
Where is John Wesley?

In this drawing I was investigating the essence of the image of John, and playing with the idea of the sum of the parts making up the whole. So what feature defines John and how at what point, if I start to remove his features, can we say that he has disappeared?

headless john
Headless John

Again, investigating presence/absence and how much we are defined by our gestures, clothes., actions etc.

mari plays with the four circles
Mari plays with the four circles

I started reading Derrida who talks about how the frame(parergon) is an essential, sometimes overlooked part of an artwork. The frame can be broad- including the literal frame of a painting or the more metaphorical meaning- the ideologies which the art work represents. Here Mari, in playing, is freeing her self from the ideologies that were imposed on her, as an inadvertent heroine of Methodiism.


This work looks at reducing Mari to her basic elements, what defines her - the hat,

tie and barefeet. This last factor was much emphasised because the story goes

that she walked barefoot for25-50miles across some mountains in Snowdonia, to buy a bible for which she had been saving for 6 years. Her story was then appropria-ted by Rev. Charles to campaign for the widespread avaliability of Welsh bibles.


John, as an itinerant preacher who

Practised open-air preaching, was said

To have travelled a total of ¼ of a

Million miles.

I am thinking about all the horses he

Would have used up on his travels,

All the saddles, all the horseshoes too.

And I’d like to make a memorial to them that served too.


Looking at some of the horses John may have ridden. This form is based on a

figurine of Wollesely, a British officer who fought in the Boer war. The connection being

that both times England, through these men, was colonising another country.

the horses of john
The horses of John

This drawing is about commemorating the horses that John Wesley would have used up whilst he travelled his ¼ of a million miles preaching.

Its about the little, seemingly insignificant details that are absolutely critical

To the success of a whole venture. The quotidian or everyday I suppose.


In these drawings I was experimenting with

Erasing Mari, or degrees of making her absence

Present through the use of sponged, painterly

And careful application of paint. It is something

I will explore more through the use od under

And overglaze, slips , prints etc.

flowers mari didn t see
Flowers Mari didn’t “see”

This drawing is an ironic comment on or a deconstruction of the concept that words and perception precede sight. In that case, Mari Jones did not see the flowers on her trip over Snowdonia because she was ignorant of their correct Latin names.


Since Mari was made famous for a journey she undertook alone ,by all accounts, and

barefoot, I had a look at work that revolves around maps. The work on the left being more

of a visceral, abstract journey, the ones on the right linked to the metaphor or saying that

you know a place like the back or front of your hand, the concept that a journey is stored

in your body.


I photocopied a drawing of the bust and experimented with how different surface treat-

Ments could change the object, and when could John be said to disappear.


The work of Teresa Gomez and Tony Bennet, both artists who work with re-presenting

the head in order to redirect the viewer’s gaze. The process is also informative for me,

Informs my vocabulary- Teresa uses print over her objects, whereas Bennet uses slip

and underglaze drawings.


I looked at Christopher le Brun and what he said about plinths, that they elevate an

Object and put it at a distance from the viewer, made me think about how to use

And play with plinths or not, as does.


Early bust of Mari based on a Florence Nightingale version, I wanted to investigate what

difference this 3-D form would make to my perception of her. John’s bust I have fired in separate parts in order to experiment with each one.


Latest bust of Mari with and without her hat, after looking at Daumier’s

clay sculptures which he left unfired as maquettes for his bronze work.