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Helen Wilks

"Childhood Fragment inhabits the seemingly minor interstices of child hood experience to remind and confront the shades and memories of them. For they are still held, somewhere echoing inside the adult.

Through attention to the ordinary I seek to animate these intimate and vivid worlds, laying bare the prosaic memories that childhoods so frequently hold In common. The Childhood Fragments have become a painted tragicomedy of internal narratives and moments holding vulnerabilities and worries, confusions and delights, mischiefs and enthusiasms.

These commonplace bits and pieces of experience are at once unexceptional and yet precious. Children everywhere live a life packed with emotional force. Small things may have overwhelming Importance then. Inside this microcosm we grow and fight our way until adulthood cloaks our memory and requires of us the use of perspective.

For me painting holds its meaning and value as essentially a contemplative and intimate language.

As well as continuing the Childhood Fragments, I am engaged on a very large narrative painting project connected to some of the same preoccupations, but also based on the ideas of the emptied pace inside the room of Velaquez's Las Meninas. "

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Childhood Fragment: Fork


Helen Wilks (b.1950) studied fine art (painting) at Bath Academy of Art (1966-9) and at the University of Reading (1970-1). She is Head of Humanities at the City & Guilds of London Art School, a small independent art college offering a BA and MA in Fine Art.

Selected solo exhibitions

1982 Bridge Street Gallery, Bath
1983 Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh Festival
1984 Bloomsbury Theatre, London
1985 Greenwich Theatre Art Gallery, Greenwich
1985 Epsom Playhouse, Epsom
1986 Battersea Arts Centre
1986 Watermans Arts Centre, London
1987 The Wells Centre, Norfolk
1990 Clarendon Gallery, London
1992 Capps & Capps, Hay-on-Wye Festival of Literature
1993 The Pump House Gallery, London
1994/ 5 The Royal College of Pathologists, London
1995 La MétaphoreThéåtre National, Lille, France
1998 The Freud Museum, London
1999 Galeria Ca’s Cosi, Banyalbufar, Mallorca
1999 The Tavistock Clinic, London
2002/ 3 House exhibitions, London

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Childhood Fragment: Listening In


Selected group exhibitions

1981 Bohun Gallery, Henley-on-Thames
1981/ 2 Bridge Street Gallery, Bath
1983 National Poetry Centre, London
Portraits of 20th-Century Poets (prize winner)
1985 Ashley Gallery, Epsom Behind the August Mask
1989 Battersea Arts Centre, London Mask
1990 Boundary Gallery, London
1990/ 1 Rye Art Gallery, Sussex Painters’ Tales, Serious Arrangements
1991 Roy Miles Gallery, London British Month
1992 Blasón Gallery, London
1992/ 3 Royal Academy of Arts, London Summer Exhibitions
1992/ 4 Roy Miles Gallery, London
1994 Lamont Gallery, London
1994 Kilvert Gallery, Hay-on-Wye
1995/ 9 Beatrice Royal Art Gallery, Hampshire Pandora’s Box
1996 Rye Art Gallery, Sussex Childhood Remembered
1997 / 8 Oriel Theatr Clwyd, North Wales Women on Men, (touring exhibition)
1999 Beaux Arts Gallery, Bath
2000 Art First, London


Childhood Fragment: Radio Mystery

Selected commissions

1983 Pen and ink illustrations for Master Peter Pathelin
trs : Edwin Morgan. Published : Third Eye Centre, Glasgow 1983
1985 Drawings for the screenplay Maybe Baby by Jack Klaff. First transmitted : BBC2, July 1985
1987 Large-scale design, Horsefair Shopping Arcade, Wisbech
1991 Performance portrait of Richard Armstrong, conducting Salomé with the
English National Opera at the Coliseum, London
1993 Various children’s workshops and school visits in London and Buckinghamshire
1999/2000 Two private portrait commissions
2002 Complete (non-commissioned) portrait of the philospher, A C Grayling



1985 Epsom Playhouse (Autumn)
1986 Long Crendon (Resurrection Plays, April)
1986 Battersea Arts Centre (Dance Days, July)
1994 Paines Plough (Collaborative visual artist for Wax)
1995 Bexley Arts Education Forum (Artist in residence at Dulverton School, July)


Works in public collections

St Mary’s Church, Long Crendon
Epsom and Ewell Borough Council
Victoria & Albert Museum, (Theatre Museum collection)
Beckett International Foundation, University of Reading

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Childhood Fragment: Juniper Bush

Selected broadcasts/bibliography

1991 The Times, John Russell Taylor (British Month at the Roy Miles Gallery) March 6th
1993 ‘Childhood Fragment’ paintings the subject of BBC Radio 3 ‘”Nightwaves”.
Interview and discussion presented by Michèle Roberts, April 29th
1995 Eastleigh & South Hants Weekly News, (Images of innocence)
February 15th
1995 Interview with Dee Pilgrim “The Net”, London Radio, March 25th
1996 BBC World Service, “Speaking of English”. An interview with Liz Maloney about using words to describe paintings
1998 Childhood Fragments. Catalogue published by the Freud Museum containing two essays : “Fragments of memory” by Eva Hoffman; and “A painted tragi-comedy of internal narratives” by Sanda Miller
1998 Hampstead & Highgate Express (Exposing children’s emotional see-saw), November 20th
1998 Modern Painters , Winter Issue. Review by George Szirtes of “Childhood Fragments” exhibition at the Freud Museum, London
2002 The Daily Telegraph , ‘What is Childhood?’ by Rebecca Abrams, April 20th
2003 For and After, ‘The Crack’ by Christopher Reid, Faber and Faber, London

Punch and Judy 2004
36" x 36"
oil on canvas


1983 Contemporary Portrait Society (prizewinner)
1993 Wandsworth Borough, Arts Fund
1995 London Arts Board Award
1998 John S Cohen Foundation
2003 Nominated for Jerwood Artists Platform Award


The Conservation Sourcebook Researched, compiled and edited
Published : Crafts Advisory Committee , London, 1979

Science For Conservators Series Editor, initiator and project manager,
Published : Crafts Council (1982/3), London
Book 1 : An Introduction to Materials;
Book 2 : Cleaning;
Book 3 : Adhesives and Coatings
(Since reprinted several times by MGC)

The British Antique Dealers’ Association Handbook Founding Editor
Issues published : BADA, London 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989 and1990

Conservation in storage Editor
Published :  Oxford University Press  1990

(Selected papers and articles)
‘Art and Craftsmanship’ Crafts (July / August 1978); ‘Caring for Objects’ Crafts (September / October 1980; ‘Preparation of the Science for Conservators Teaching Series’ ICOM Preprints (Ottawa 1981), and others

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Childhood Fragment: The Bears

The Inhabited Space

A panoramic circle of eleven paintings passing through 360 degrees, fifty three feet long and six feet high. Begun in 1996, and painted off and on ever since, it remains a work in progress.

The painting is a meditation on the space both physical and metaphysical which a person inhabits in their life. The complex ways in which the mind and body consciously and unconsciously occupy the space‚ we live in are common to us all. But those who stay in a still room for any time, say to write, compose music, paint or even just to think, share a further dimension of space. They are using an imaginative, remembered and felt space which winds through their physical one. This painting is necessarily about the space of a female painter and of the life which exists independent of the physical space which doubly feeds and pins us down. My task here is to make this mesh of spaces‚ visible.

Helen Wilks
March 2003

The Inhabited Space