Woman with Stone


Helen Murray


I am interested in the beauty of the ordinary; the overlooked stuff of everyday life - what I call ‘treasure’. It’s everywhere; at home, in the garden, on the beach, in fields, on the street, in junk shops; it’s hard to avoid really.

I use these treasures to make mixed media objects which, I hope, celebrate the very ordinary-ness of their constituent parts. I have slate from my brother’s Devon garden, ancient stones and shells from Felixstowe Ferry, Pakefield and Southwold beaches, twisted clematis and tiny birch twigs from my workshop, metal residue from a sculptor friend's casting sessions. I tear up unsuccessful work and recycle it, I have old encyclopaedias made up of wafer thin foxed pages, perfect for collage. My only rule is: no plastic. It rarely fits into the scheme of things anyway.

I often work on a grid format which has endless permutations in terms of composition, colour and texture, particularly in its potential for variations in scale.

My aim is to suggest rather than to define, to provoke the imagination in the manner of poetry or music. The contents of the grids are tiny theatres, places of storytelling. Each story exists according to the interpretation of the viewer; my work is intended as a signpost, not an instruction.

I am influenced by ancient history and archaeology, poetry and music. I am no linguist but words have always sung to me and I enjoy the playfulness of language and its capacity for creating wonder.

In the words of the wizard Miro –
‘It is signs that have no exact meaning that provoke a magic sense’.

I live and work in north east Suffolk not far from the sea.  In a previous life I worked as an illustrator but for the past fourteen years I have run art sessions for adults with special needs, which is the best fun in the world and which has probably stopped me from becoming a completely nerdy wordsmith with a paintbrush.  My husband is a hero who handles all the scary stuff (ie accounts, making proper coffee, creating and updating this website).

I exhibited for many years as Helen Cockburn – in case of any confusion, we are one and the same person!