A Week In Helsinglight
So here’s the thing. I went to Helsinglight at an incredibly stressful time in my life. I am effectively homeless and fighting for a divorce. I also happen to be working on an art series depicting my own experiences of struggling with mental illness. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect before going to Helsignlight. I was excited about the opportunity to go and work and stay somewhere so unique and the idea of an “alternative” artist residence definitely chimed with my alternative heart. But what was it really all about?
As it was, due to real life happening, in the months leading up to my visit I wasn’t really thinking about it or prepared at all! I had a vague idea of what I wanted to work on while I was there but that was it. In some ways I think this was probably good. Going into a new experience with no expectations can actually be very refreshing and take a lot of the pressure of doing well off your shoulders.
I mentioned above that I was going through a difficult time and I also have a chronic illness which leaves me disabled. For this reason I was travelling with a companion, who could help me out while I was at Helsinglight – otherwise there was a real risk I would use all my energy painting and not be able to do basic things like cook a meal and eat. I would need help getting around too – I can’t walk far and can’t drive so having somebody to help was essential. It was also just generally lovely to have a friend along. In addition to the various life stressors I also suffer from mental health issues (depression, anxiety, cPTSD) which actually form a large part of the art I produce. Indeed, my main focus while at Helsinglight was to produce more work for an exhibition collection titled “inside my brain” which is a reflection in art of my struggles with mental illness.
Due to my disability I am unable to work “normal” day job or even commit to painting every day. Helsinglight was the opportunity I needed. There is nothing quite like being able to wake every day and know that all you have to do is create and not only that but to have the space to do so right in front of you. Helsinglight was like a haven for me.
Obviously the apartment itself was a beautiful and luxurious place to stay during my time there – somehow they knew my style. The real magic came from being in a space that was dedicated to art. Not only did the apartment itself come with a lovely little studio space – which captured the morning sun in the most wonderful manner and was perfect for sketches and quiet planning –but it’s within the Helsinglight building itself a space which as well as it’s current incarnation as artist spaces, has a history as an artists hideaway.
Those of you who are lucky enough to have a home studio or easy access to work space might not realise how frustrating it is to not have those things. I can only try to describe to you then the utter joy and satisfaction of being able so easily to surround myself with not just the space and tools I needed but the collective creativity of Petra, Fredrik, the old tenant artist Gunnar Greiber, and every artist who has stayed and worked there previously radiating from every wall. It was like being welcomed into a collective and surrounded with encouragement and inspiration. Yes the practical things – space, lighting, tools – were of course crucial to my ability to create but it is the spirit of the place that that really did it.
As noted above, in my personal life I had been struggling somewhat. My art is itself a form of therapy, allowing me to express and understand some of my thoughts and emotions. Being in a place that supported and encouraged that expression was of course incredibally beneficial to me. That opportunity to simultaneously relax and focus on creativity, something that brings me so much joy, was another branch of what for me felt like healing.
Then of course there is the location. It is incredibly special. To step out of those enigmatic walls into a lush, green, leafy space was wonderful. It truly is a beautiful area and, I am reliably informed, very quintessentially Swedish. Being out in nature and away from the man made (as much as I adore architecture) is very important to me in terms of well being. Being able to walk out in nature and be surrounded by birdsong, greenery, mushrooms, moss and all that the Swedish landscape has to offer not just soothed my soul but gave me the space and calm I needed to properly embrace that creativity and fervent need to paint and draw.
Robin Tynan Social Channels
HELSINGLIGHT AAiR - ALTERNATIVE ARTIST IN RESIDENCE IS SUPPORTED BY KULTURBRYGGAN
*Kulturbryggan (Kulturbryggan is an alternative financier which, by allocating grants to projects, will promote renewal and development in the cultural area throughout the country)