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Helen Dowling

The Queen of Lemons

tegenboschvanvreden, Amsterdam

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Helen Dowling
The Queen of Lemons
7 min 50 s
Format & Technical

Video HD, single channel, sound.
Ed.3 + 2 AP


Martin Van Vreden

  • Music This Woman’s Work - Kate Bush Pimp - The Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band, a cover of P.I.M.P. by 50 Cent Chopin's Prelude in Emin Op.28 no.4 for Boomwhackers Arranged and performed by Santi Carcasona :
  • Embedded words from Kate Tempest from the poem ‘The brand new ancients’:

British artist Helen Dowling uses a multitude of images that she has found, downloaded or filmed herself to create video works that have a hallucinatory effect, taking the viewer on a visual trip that presents them with an alienating view of existence. At the same time, the works reference philosophy and poetry – from poet Kate Tempest to feminist thinker Hélène Cixous – and universal themes like the landscape and humankind’s impact on nature. From celestial bodies to wandering humans, images appear in apparently random succession, forming stories with no linear plot.

Dowling combines her own footage with existing material, including digitalized images from magazines and stock videos. In the editing process, she creates an interplay of colour, movement, rhythm and sound, as an associative visual narrative with several layers of meaning emerges. In Dowling’s universe, the boundary between real and artificial is blurred. Some elements are recognizable: a sarcophagus, a young woman, the interior of a coffeeshop. Without entirely abandoning figuration, Dowling approaches abstraction in an almost painterly fashion. With their penetrating soundscapes her works are an immersive experience.

“Jealousy, tenderness, curses and gifts.”  These words in The Queen of Lemons are taken from the epic poem Brand New Ancients (2013), by the British poet Kate Tempest. The poem is a call to remember the prosaic that underpins existence and to put ourselves back at the centre of myths and stories; jealousy, tenderness, curses and gifts are of all times. Helen Dowling connects things like an Egyptian woman’s sarcophagus in a museum display with contemporary stock images of women’s bodies. The often clichéd clips come from Pond5, a New York online marketplace for royalty-free media. The scenes in space were generated by the 3-D astronomy program SpaceEngine, which allows a realistic virtual universe to be explored from your computer. This universe containing billions of galaxies is based on current scientific knowledge. Through editing and post-production, Dowling creates a new jubilant space for the women and other entities of this footage – from earthy lives to celestial bodily enterprise.


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