DES HELMORE b. 1940
Born Takapau, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand.
1967 - 1969 lived in London.
1975 - 2017 lived in Auckland.
2018 - moved to live in Hastings.
1959-62 Diploma of Fine Arts (Hons), Ilam School of Fine Arts University of Canterbury, Christchurch.
Oil on board, 505 x 610 mm
James Wallace Art Trust Collection.
Solar Receptor, Cass
oil on board, 485 x 600 mm.
Collection of the Christchurch Art Gallery.
Exhibition catalogue, 2005
Earthquake Damage Inspector
Oil on board, 400 x 533 mm, 1989
1988 oil, 40 x 53 cm
Man with superphosphate
oil on board, 31.5 x 39 cm.
Collection: The James Wallace Arts Trust.
Group show. Vivian Gallery, Matakana.
Extreme Suction solo show. NBK Gallery, Auckland.
Selection 6 - The Artist's Selection group show. Jane Sanders Art Agent, Auckland.
Being there. Where? solo show. Jane Sanders Art Agent, Auckland.
Selection 010 -011 group show. Jane Sanders Art Agent, Auckland.
METROLAND group show. Ruth Cleland, Kirsty Bruce, Graham Fletcher, Derek Henderson, Des Helmore, Patrick Pound. Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland.
Creative Hawke's Bay Invitational group exhibition curated by Tim Walker. Hastings City Art Gallery, Hastings.
New Folk group show. Gavin Hurley, Sam Mitchell, Des Helmore, Martin Poppelwell. Ramp Gallery, Hamilton.
Cold Front solo show. Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland.
Recent Paintings solo show. Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland.
Bugged group show. Lopdell House, Titirangi, Auckland.
Group Show Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland.
Random Encounters solo show. Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland.
Land/Landscape group show. North Art Community Arts Centre, Auckland.
Landscapes group show. Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland.
Des Helmore, Stanley Palmer, Johanna Pegler Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland.
Landscape group show. Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland.
Late 20th Century Landscapes group show. Claybrook Gallery, Auckland.
Des Helmore and Gerda Leenards Claybrook Gallery, Auckland.
Small Works group show. Claybrook Gallery, Auckland.
New and Recent Work group show. Claybrook Gallery, Auckland.
Yvonne Coleman and Des Helmore Claybrook Gallery, Auckland.
Perceptions of Place group show. Hawke’s Bay Art Gallery and Museum, Napier.
Landscapes solo show. Lopdell House, Titirangi, Auckland.
Land 1976 group show. Canterbury Society of Arts, Christchurch.
Solo show. Canterbury Society of Arts, Christchurch.
Benson and Hedges Art Award group show. Canterbury Society of Arts, Christchurch.
Thirty Plus group show. Robert McDougall Art Gallery, Christchurch.
Solo show. B.H. Corner Gallery, London, UK.
Solo show. Manawatu Art Gallery, Palmerston North.
Manawatu Contemporary Art Competition group show. Manawatu Art Gallery, Palmerston North.
Manawatu Contemporary Art Competition group show. Manawatu Art Gallery, Palmerston North. Awarded a Merit Prize.
Solo show. Hawke’s Bay Art Gallery and Museum, Napier.
1960 - 1962
Exhibited in solo and group shows at the Canterbury Society of Arts (CSA), Christchurch.
Christchurch Art Gallery.
Hocken Library, University of Otago, Dunedin.
University of Canterbury Art Collection, Christchurch.
Canterbury Public Library, Christchurch.
Canterbury Society of Arts, Christchurch.
Hawke’s Bay Art Gallery and Museum, Napier.
The Wallace Arts Trust Collection.
PUBLICATIONS, PRESS, REVIEWS, CRITICISMS etc
Mackenzie, Kyla Des Helmore: Extreme Precision Art New Zealand, Number 163, Spring, pages 68-71.
Brown, James Press Release - Extreme Suction solo exhibition. NKB Gallery, Auckland, 23 March - 17 April.
“Des Helmore is a painter’s painter and perhaps one of the New Zealand art scene’s best kept secrets, something testified to - time and again - in reviews of his exhibitions. Showings and exhibitions of his work over the years have been infrequent and rare, and he has, unknowingly, cultivated something of an enigma over the years.
Extreme Suction is Helmore’s 10th solo show and the first in Auckland since 2011 - surveying new paintings produced over a five-year period. Helmore’s paintings are characterised by their use of flat planes and reduced perspective, achieving a sense of space which often seems to exceed the dimensions of frame. Delicately weighted colours, curious recurring shapes and occasional off kilter content, enhance both the mystery and order of his works.
Helmore begins with a drawing or photograph of something which is then worked up into an idea or concept which may have little to do with the original observation. Thus the title (and often text within the painting) is important, as it immediately directs the viewer to the idea, without which the painting would be just another meaningless depiction. The Belgian painter Luc Tuymans claimed that the title is more important than the work ... in other words that there is more to the painting than what is visible which seems true of Helmore’s work – his economical compositions are perhaps as much about what has been excluded, as what is included, asking us to look again at what once seemed familiar.”
Brown, Warwick Signs of Complexity NZ House and Garden March 2017.
Re: Des Helmore Extreme Suction exhibition, NKB Gallery, Auckland, 23 March - 17 April.
“Des Helmore is celebrated by entomologists as a master illustrator, but is not as well known as he should be for his contemporary paintings. Representational at first glance, Helmore’s quiet scenes quickly reveal oddities and complexities. A dull, airless oppressive light pervades most of them, and figures and cars seldom appear. There is usually a large empty area of sky or foreground and an unsettling sense of recession, but also of flatness. Though building are accurately rendered, bushes and landscapes are simplified and small geometric shapes and lines are added here and there. There are no shadows where there should be. and vice versa. The subjects of most paintings are like boring snapshots taken at random, but some works are quite fanciful, almost surreal. Where the subject allows - such as a lifeless industrial park - the artist delights in including signs such as TRAMPOLINES and CHIROPRACTIC. These operate to throw us off the scent … but what scent?”
Sex Romp by Des Helmore Viva Magazine, NZHerald 23 November.
“The Summer Exhibition group show next month at NKB Gallery in Mt. Eden has a number of artists worth checking out, one of which, Des Helmore, has not exhibited new work in Auckland since 2011. Helmore, who does not produce much work, will have two pieces in the show. Sex Romp, (above), is a reference to the couple caught in flagrante in Christchurch last year. It’s not intended to be provocative - more sensitive - but it’s the artist’s response to what ‘is’ and ‘should be’ in the public interest versus aimless sensationalism and titillation, says gallery manager James Brown. “There is at present no clear distinction. It also touches on the responsibility of the general public (who essentially broke the story) in using new avenues of media to share potentially sensitive material, for novelty, shaming or clickbait.”
McNamara, T.J. Enigmatic explorations on show, NZHerald 10 December 2011.
Re: Des Helmore Being there. Where? NEW PAINTINGS Jane Sanders Art Agent 23 November - 23 December.
“Des Helmore is having one of his rare exhibitions at Jane Sanders Art Agent. He is an artist who cultivates enigma. He takes ordinary places, landscapes and buildings and combines them into paintings that are truly strange yet curiously familiar.
A work such as Parallel Universe combines sky, buildings, a puddle of water, a man and a shadow in a surreal way.
Helmore is an old-fashioned painter. His draughtsmanship is impeccable as witnessed by his accurate scientific illustrations but there is no virtuoso flourish of drawing in his paintings: his forms are simple and clear. Rather his virtuosity is shown in his handling of paint. Skies and surfaces are deftly brushed in and the handling works in with his individual palette of dark, shadowy colour to give tension and life to the work.
The paintings in this exhibition have an extra energetic factor. Forms shatter into the sky and bits and pieces scatter about. Sometimes this makes the structure too open but generally the works are held together by strong compositions of angles, checks and balances.
In a dark landscape called Drury fields and trees are curiously counterpointed by a gas tank and its piping. Reflection is animated by a tiny flash of white and the same sort of highlight enlivens other work.
These are fine paintings, carefully made, evoking wastelands and familiar territories. They evoke emotions but with no subtext of social comment.”
Sanders, J. Press Release: Des Helmore Being there. Where? NEW PAINTINGSat Jane Sanders Art Agent, 23 November - 23 December 2011. Artbash website 2011
“It is a simple fact that the computer has significantly changed the way we view our world. The iTunes page describes the app for Google Earth as holding “the world in the palm of your hand ... you can fly to far corners of the planet”; and all without leaving the comfort of your home. Do we in fact have a greater sense of the world? This is not the same as being there; but then reading a book has never been the same as being there. Des Helmore has always been fascinated with the environs around him, be it a rural or city landscape. He reduces details and brings the world around us into the abstract, yet with recognisable elements. It is often the seemingly incidental features, which provide attraction for Helmore and act as signifiers of the type of site being depicted. To explore via Google Earth and Google Maps we journey between pixilated somewhat fuzzy views as we zoom between locations and focus in. The surprise is what objects come to view during the process, and this is what intrigues Helmore. With Helmore though we explore a beautifully painted surface and marvel at his handling of the paint. Dick Frizzell in his latest book Its all about the Image sums it up with his account, He crept up on all of us, after a gap of 30 or so years, figuring it out best, lost in science and the world of entomological analysis and recording. Honing the skills of observation and patient description.
Helmore’s new suite of works Being there, where? will delight both those familiar and unfamiliar with his work, as he parles with Google Earth.”
New Folk come to Ramp Gallery MediaArts, Waikato, website.
Click for more information.
Peter Dornauf. New Folk group show. Martin Poppelwell, Sam Mitchell, Des Helmore, Gavin Hurley. Ramp Gallery, Hamilton, 10 June - 2 July. EyeContact 2 July.
“The current exhibition ... curated by Stuart Shepherd, consists of a suite of works selected from the Anna Bibby dealer gallery in Auckland....
Des Helmore’s small oils on board of beach scenes and urban sites posses the geometric pared back look of Patrick Caulfield together with something out of Kitaj. These scenes, minus any figures, along with their muted restrained colours; greens, greys and browns, create an uneasy sense of estrangement and isolation that conjures up Edward Hopper’s cityscapes without the claustrophobia. They are perfectly finished and hover ambiguously in their painterly style between hard edge Pop and softer Impressionism. A delectable mix. ...”
Click for more information
Dunningham, Roy. Creative Hawke’s Bay Invitational 2010, Hastings City Art Gallery, 9 April - 27 June. Baybuzz 8 April.
“It has taken a while, but Creative Hawke’s Bay has got the formula right for this year’s Invitationals exhibition... Certainly, the resulting Invitationals show this year is one of the most consistent in quality that I can recall...
Desmond Helmore uses flat planes and reduced perspective reminiscent of Japanese woodcuts to achieve a sense of space that belies the modest dimensions of the pictures. His beautifully weighted colours and slightly surreal content enhances the Zen-like calm of these finely resolved works...
There are too many good things in this show to cover in this review. Go and see it for yourself.
Selector Tim Walker has given us an exhibition that truly looks at Hawke’s Bay in its many aspects. This is not the ‘colourful at all costs’ Hawke’s Bay of tourist promotions but is darker and deeper. And a lot more interesting.”
Gifford, Adam Poster Boy for Special Road Trips NZ Herald 22 June.
Re: John Lyall Poster Boy exhibition at Jane Sanders Art Agent 9 June - 10 July. Des Helmore Solar Reception, Cass oil on board, featured in the exhibition.
“In Cass, Lyall was videoed putting a poster on the railway station featured in the Rita Angus painting. His installation also includes a Des Helmore painting of Cass which does not include the shed. It adds more layers of reference to the palimpsest of New Zealand art.”
Walker, Zoe. Set Piece NZHerald August 15.
Hurrell, John. Group Exhibition Anna Bibby Gallery, 11 February - 8 March 2008 eyeCONTACT website February 19.
“The dozen artists in this group show present a sort of ‘After New Year’ celebration: a display of stock to kick-start 09’s season. While there are no real surprises it is a good chance to see Anna Bibby’s taste - (craft–oriented, domestic scale), if you are not familiar with her shows already – and to ponder what her artists do. Lots of them seem to like to make bird imagery. Apart from Des Helmore and Tim Thatcher, they all have avian subject-matter somewhere...
Probably the most striking (and heretically non-feathered) paintings in the show are by Desmond Helmore and Tim Thatcher, works that celebrate the viscosity of paint while containing its fluidity within tight spatial structures. Helmore is the more austere of the two, a remarkably honed sensibility of exquisite precision. Thatcher, much looser, has larger less illustrative works, and uses a deeper space, but is just as controlled in organisation, though not in style of application...”
Click for more information
McNamara,T.J. Des Helmore - Cold Front Anna Bibby Gallery, 12 February - 1 March 2008. NZHerald 21 February.
“A totally different world is created by Des Helmore at the Anna Bibby Gallery at its new location in Jervois Rd. His is the world of suburbia. Out of the angularity of buildings, road markings, posts and signs he creates compositions that also convey a sense of the strangeness inherent in these ordinary surroundings. A work like Vendor off to Australia catches a situation with a special sort of irony that gives his careful, low-key work a flavour like no other.“
The Galleries: Inventive web to capture dreams NZHerald February 22.
Des Helmore - Recent Paintings Press Release, Anna Bibby Gallery 21 November - 16 December 2006.
“In this exhibition Helmore continues his exploration of Auckland’s environment, focusing on subject matter that is unusual and unlikely - often industrial wastelands and other non-destinations, and mostly empty of people. Signs and brands also come under intense scrutiny as do the irregularities and ambiguities of language.
Exhibition works include, for example, Getting in Touch with the Golden Rectangle 2005, based on a Wilson’s Car Park site, Discarded Airliner 2005, depicting a discarded airliner at the end of an Auckland Airport runway, Office Planting 2005, showing one tree outside a building, and Airport Environment, 2005 which displays a scruffy dead end street in a rather uninviting area around Auckland Airport. Helmore’s eye for the unusual is evident in Flight Centre 2005, which shows part of a building featuring strangely 1930’s architecture, replete with a series of curves, giving it a streamlined appearance and hinting that it might at any moment, ‘take off.’ The building’s streamlined appearance also harks back to 1930s passenger aircraft, in the same way the palette of blues, greens, yellows and reds points to 1930’s illustrations.
Helmore works from quick rough sketches done on the spot. These are adequate, he says, because he is not interested in creating photo-realist landscapes.
I am more interested in a modernist mode of painting - ‘defunct’ modernism in a general sense. In Flight Centre, for example, the main idea was to combine a modernist style, which is now out of date, with a modern idea like Flight Centre and add a historical twist - art and architecture of the 1920s and 1930s. The resulting painting is full of contradictions and ambiguities linking past and present, said Helmore.”
McNamara, T. J. February Group Show: Des Helmore, Gavin Hurley, Sam Mitchell, Martin Poppelwell, Martin Thompson, Emily Wolfe. Anna Bibby Gallery, 14 February - 11 March 2006. NZHerald 22 February.
“Painting in oils is not dead, but as an expressive medium for art it is coming under a lot of shot and shell. In the many group exhibitions in Auckland this week, few artists are using oil paint.
A typical exhibition is at the Anna Bibby Gallery until March 11. Oil painting is not entirely neglected. One of the most telling images in the show is Emily Wolfe’s The Silent Treatment...
Another strong oil is Des Helmore’s Bather which effectively brings a 19th century boy from a Seurat painting into the 21st century.”
Des Helmore - Random Encounters. Essays by Anna Bibby, Dick Frizzell and Richard Wolfe. Published by Anna Bibby Gallery.
World into Diagram Essay by Anna Bibby
“I like Des Helmore’s work. He’s a painters’ painter. He makes me think of Vermeer, Morandi, and Tuymans. Like them he opts for modest formats, a flat palette, deadpan style and quotidian subject matter, while meditating unsubtle dynamics and quirks of representation. He paints unpeopled spaces: industrial wastelands, air bases, and other non-destinations. His paintings are so severely edited and formalised, so classicised, that you might imagine subject matter was irrelevant to him - an alibi. He flattens his scenes, eliminating the tone, the atmosphere; resolving world into diagram. His paintings seem airless. Helmore’s paintings are as much about what’s been dropped from the image as what’s been retained; he often revels in the uncertainty that emerges with paucity of visual information. He’s also interested in the ambiguities of language: out of place words like ‘Renaissance’ and ‘Japan’ appearing as signage. And he is drawn to infectious portentous titles. To a contemporary eye Helmore might seem old fashioned, conservative, a slow burner, and yet his work has affinity with interesting new painters, like Britain’s George Shaw, who paints housing estates in Humbrol model enamels. A show of his work seems long overdue.”
Essay by Dick Frizzell
“When I got to Ilam Art school in 1960 Des had already been there one year - and to my nervous and innocent eye looked very much the real artist. With his natural shyness and quiet deliberate manner in front of his easel he came across as a person of considerable gravitas. I’ve since learnt that image of high seriousness came mostly from a seething frustration at trying to reconcile his natural inclination for binding the chaos of the external world into a tight sense of order, with the lecturing ethos of the time that constantly shoved us towards a supposedly ‘liberating’ looseness of expression. Little wonder that he walked away from it all in despair. Well, it only took forty years, but Des has finally and painstakingly painted his way to the ordered world he instinctively strived for back then. These new works are the most definitive distillation to date of Des’s searcher order in the strange human clutter that gathers at the interface of the urban and rural landscape. There’s a profound atmosphere of deliberation and analysis here that that only years of slow looking could provide. I love the sense of security these paintings seem to offer - a sense of factual physical weight and order - a safe place to park your thoughts for a while. The painting DECK seems to sum up this atmosphere for me - too hot to sit on in summer and too cold to use in winter, it sits there like an aspirational folly - animated in the most marginal way by the abandoned shoe. All the works are informed by this strange ‘glimpse’… rooted in the seen, but no slave to any literal interpretation… a sort of landscape of the mind given authority by this sense of having come from deeply mediated experience.”
Extract from essay by Richard Wolfe
“Des Helmore’s unique view of the world has been fine-tuned by a previous life as an entomological illustrator. Away from the microscope he has adjusted his scale and focused an observant eye on the overlooked corners of the urban landscape, celebrating the odd and unexpected. His spare and economical compositions suggest frames from a comic strip,and that the mystery of what’s really going on might be revealed in the next one – if only it existed. Helmore reduces elements to their bare essentials and creates a strange unease, while there’s also the suggestion of a sly humour at work. He does offer the occasional clue, such as a section of signage, although never enough to explain the situation. And while he favours dark outlines, somewhat in the style of Hergés Tintin, the muted areas in between aren’t as flat as they appear, but enlivened by his own brand of pointillism. The cumulative effect is a feeling that something’s about to happen - and it could be just round the corner.”
McNamara, T.J. The galleries: Stark and unsettling perspective NZHerald 25 May.
Re: Des Helmore - Random Encounters Anna Bibby Gallery, 11 May - 4 June 2005.
“VISUAL ART: Painter whose work rarely surfaces shows profound depth expressed in a mix of abstract values and acute observation.”
“Reputation has odd vagaries. Some artists attain it early. Des Helmore, whose exhibitionRandom Encountersis at the Anna Bibby Gallery until June 4, has waited a long time.
He was at art school as long ago as the 1960s but paintings have appeared only rarely and a few at a time, yet they have been notable for their quality. Why this reticence? Why this isolation?
Perhaps because it has taken a long time. All sorts of movements and revelations in art have emerged before Helmore’s tough combination of precise abstract values and acute observation of the passing scene could strike a chord and be recognised as a valid synthesis in an art world devoted to extremes.
The paintings in this show not only combine severe abstraction with buildings, landscape, sea and sky, but achieve something entirely his own. His stark portrayals of buildings, landscape, walls, seats and signs, railings and landscape combine with a curious palette of muted colour to have a disconcerting effect that makes us look again at familiar places.
The signs are important. In one of his paintings, the trade name ‘Renaissance’ is blazoned across a building and, equally tellingly, the painting is called Looking Back.
One aspect of the work is that Helmore is looking back at the studies in perspective that preoccupied the early Renaissance. He is looking back at the bright, clear light and the careful placement of objects in the space created behind the surface of the painting without entirely losing surface effects. The surface, particularly in the skies, is often delicately painterly.
The New Zealand inspiration for his painting is exemplified in Deck, where the railing of a typical deck in a home overlooking the sea goes deep into space in perspective. Light strikes the top of the rail and creates dark shadows on the deck. A touch of strangeness is given by a discarded shoe on the planking and beyond the railing there is a long, low horizon. It is the shoe as well as the light that provides the oddity in this painting. Elsewhere it is supplied by tradenames that give a strong hint of irony as well as establish familiarity. The signs that support them have a special part to play in the composition alongside the railings and poles with no apparent purpose. When Helmore takes his eye off particular objects and simply makes his shapes jump and dance the effect is not so individual or powerful.The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over the Lazy Rabbit is a jagged and lively piece of abstraction but loses impact from lack of particularisation. Despite the inclusion of such experimental work, this show of nearly two dozen paintings should do much to lift the public reputation of a mature artist hitherto admired mostly by other artists.”
Sunday Star Times 22 May.
“Random Encounters by Des Helmore at Anna Bibby Gallery, 11 May - 4 Jun 2005, is a series of his Kiwiana pop art. Forlorn landscapes made of straight lines, echoes of advertising imagery and neutral palettes. Dick Frizzell meets Saatchi on a particularly humourless day.”
Des Helmore notes, Andy Warhol was also interested in exploring the “emotion of boredom.”
McNamara, T.J. The Galleries: Stark and unsettling perspective NZHerald May 25.
McNamara, T.J. The Galleries: Trivial Ornaments seen in new light NZHerald April 28.
McNamara, T.J. Landscapes group show. James Cousins, Dick Frizzell, Des Helmore, David Hofer, Kathryn McCool, Stanley Palmer, Elizabeth Thomson, Heather Straka. Anna Bibby Gallery, 20 Apr - 15 May 2004. NZHerald 28 April.
“...Dick Frizzell skilfully pushes the paint about and makes a corner of a road or a black gate the essence of rural New Zealand. By further contrast, Des Helmore, whose work should be seen more often, makes tight compositions of buildings, signs and parking spaces, dry but, nevertheless, mediated into tense evocative images. ”
McNamara, T.J. Des Helmore, Stanley Palmer, Johanna Pegler Anna Bibby Gallery, 16 Apr - 4 May 2002. NZHerald 29 April.
“This last show at the Anna Bibby Gallery, before its big move to Newmarket, features landscapes: atmospheric and knowledgeable by Stanley Palmer, quirky and strange by Johanna Pegler and darkly coloured but astringently composed by Des Helmore.”
Mobile Art Annual Exhibition, 25 July - 13 August City News 15 July.
“Wormwood (Sylvia Siddell) is just one of the standouts in this collection. It will sit beside such gems as Dung Covered Paddock by Desmond Helmore. This is an addictive picture, so New Zealandesque in its scope, so apathetic in its ultimate statement. His work seems to follow the tradition of the great Paul Stothers. Irreverent to a tee, caring too much not to be critical, blindly patriotic, employing tough love when it’s needed.”
McNamara, T. J. Des Helmore, Gerda Leenards NZHerald 10 March.
Re: Exhibition Claybrook Gallery, 2 - 19 March 1994.
“Still in Parnell at the Claybrook Gallery is a fascinating double exhibition by Des Helmore and Gerda Leenards. Both are painting landscape, but in a very special way. Helmore takes the most banal and ordinary of scenes and makes of it something strange and moody. Some of the moodiness of effect comes from his way of letting the reddish-brown of his underpainting show around the edge of his forms. This, and a dim and strange light, make such things as fences and rails - even a peg-bag on a clothesline - enigmatic and odd. Strangest of all these works are Dung Covered Paddock and Near the Coast, but overall they are consistent in style and quality as they are in size and colour.”
Walsby, John Beetle familes share our suburban dreams NZHerald 10 July. (includes 6 insect illustrations)
McNamara, T. J. Perspectives on Art - Yvonne Coleman and Des Helmore Claybrook Gallery, 25 September - 12 October. NZHerald 4 October.
“There are two exhibitions at the Claybrook Gallery in Claybrook Rd, Parnell. One by Yvonne Coleman has images in a messy, false, naive style. But the other, by Des Helmore, is a real find. He uses the unexpected - such as finding a drainpipe in a forest. His straight landscapes are competent but here and there he adds an extra spin with details that tighten the work - and give it a special astringency.”
Dale, Richard. Desmond Helmore, Landscapes
Waitakere Arts and Cultural Centre/Lopdell House, 6 September - 4 October. NZHerald 13 September.
“Paintings of the rural environment, working fields and disused paddocks all have a late autumnal feeling to them. It is a hot season in Helmore's farming country with few people to be seen.
The paintings are a mix of documentation: of the idiosyncratic (the farmhouse completely surrounded by a hedge on all four sides), the iconic (the solitary caravan), the schematic (the appearance of dotted lines, grids and symbols), and the photographic (black and white contrasts that a photographer might gravitate towards).
Ruth Cole (the orange base), Michael Shepherd (in limited tonal areas of sky and ground), and Michael Stevenson seem the context of these paintings - a certain nostalgia, a quality of the naive, and the expressive, a newer context for the artist who has a background in abstract painting.”
Wilson, Tim. Drawn to Insects North and South November.
“Desmond Helmore thinks insects are beautiful. Just as well, he spends about 15 hours a week drawing them for the DSIR publication Fauna of New Zealand. It’s a job most would consider outdated in the age of electron microscopes and computers. But instead of blank accuracy, the job involves a human’s imaginative licence. Often, for example, an insects features may be obscured by fine hair.
Helmore (49) comes from an artistic rather than a scientific background. Born in Takapau in Hawkes Bay, he received his Diploma of Fine Arts from Ilam art school at Christchurch in 1963, majoring in painting. Following a stint at painting and a succession of odd jobs, Helmore went to London in 1966 where he worked on university black and white illustrations, purely on the strength of his Ilam portfolio.
Home oil 1969, he began drawing illustrations on contract to the Canterbury Museum - the only artistically work available. His coworker was painter Tony Fomison. After a year there, he spent three years with Television New Zealand as a graphic artist. In 1975, a friend told him the DSIR needs an insect illustrator.
He works about five hours a day from Monday to Wednesday, half this time spent carefully viewing the insect under the microscope. He then goes away and draws from memory. One occupational hazard is the headaches he gets from peering at at his subjects for too long.
He says he gets by financially but admits he wouldn’t be able to afford a mortgage or dependents or to paint full time.
Helmore still paints and sells work. He hasn’t exhibited in 10 years but may next year. Currently his painting focuses on technological landscape activities, anything from methods of hanging carcasses to the construction of power stations. Meanwhile the insects support him.”
Helmore, D. W. 1982. Drawings of New Zealand Insects Bulletin of the Entomological Society of New Zealand 8. 52 pages.
Lewis L. Deitz and Desmond W. Helmore Illustrated key to the families and genera of planthoppers (Homoptera: Fulgoroidea) from the New Zealand sub-region New Zealand Entomologist Vol 7, pages 1, 11-19.
Oakley, John. Desmond Helmore Paintings. CSA Gallery, Christchurch, 27 August - 16 September. Christchurch Star 5 September.
“Helmore’s early excursions into the field of abstract painting have paid off and he gives a new dimension to his work now that he has returned to the field of reality. His vision is a personal one, and in analysing a subject he distills and presents its essence with confident assurance. While some are fairly loosely painted, others are more precise, and these are the more interesting. One finds exquisitely painted passages - like the sweep of a bay, a luminous horizon, or a sky of infinite space - that gives a timeless quality to his art. ... The figures he incorporates in some of his paintings and the mask like head studies are similarly abstracted, yet they have a presence which is hauntingly expressive.“
Finalist, Benson and Hedges Art Award 1972, CSA Gallery, Christchurch. 7 - 28 June 1972.
Judge: Elwyn Lynn (Australia).
Judge‘s comment: Desmond Helmore: Curve: “An excellent example of uncompromising geometrical severity and dynamic movement taking great risks in the downward sweep of the black ‘rainbow‘, a demanding work, the pink flush adding to the grimness”.