NO.7 TYGA HELME : Up Our Street - 8 Holland Street's neighbours, near and far
“Painting with feeling is so important; to look at the subject more than the page”
WE MEET TYGA HELME IN THE WILTSHIRE COUNTRYSIDE TO SEE HOW THE BOUNDARIES BETWEEN NATURE AND PAINTING ARE MERRILY BLURRED.
With her works so alive with nature, relocating from London to Wiltshire in March last year was a logical step for Tyga Helme. Her oil paintings and pastel drawings are inherently tied to the natural world – forests, mountains, flowers – that she sketches en plein air then finishes inside. Moving here has helped close that gap. “Every day I work from observation outside and every day I can be in the studio as well. I've tried to work a lot more with memory recently and the memories are fresher here,” she says. “It flows better.”
Now based just south of Marlborough, Tyga trained at the Royal Drawing School after a joint fine art and history of art degree at Edinburgh University. Her early works saw her document the enveloping canopies of the Himalayan forests and hillscapes of Italy. Today on her easel – and scattered all over the studio floor – are images of the surrounding landscape during a particularly wet spring. She will start most days with a slow morning and then a walk in the countryside. Once back at the studio, she’ll piece things together.
The double-height space, with its skylight facing north for the best light and shelves full of books, is a cornucopia for her to paint in. Tyga admits to working quickly here. “I find the flow comes when I’m slightly on the edge of being out of control with a drawing,” she says. “It also helps me find surprising marks. It means there’s a lot of things that don’t work, but it all informs the working day.”
Tyga describes British painter Sargy Mann as being an influence on her work. He slowly lost his sight a decade or so into his career but carried on, producing even more personal, sensory works. “Painting with feeling is so important; to look at the subject more than the page,” says Tyga.
Indeed, instinct is key to her own work. So much so, she usually paints on the floor. “Maybe it's an immersion thing - not being able to see anything else, being down there,” she says. Surrounded by numerous works in progress, her pleasure in the immediacy of showing the world outside on paper is obvious. “I like an intensity of decision making. It makes you as present as possible.”
Towards the end of the day, Tyga shuffles a pile of sketches in front of her, many the same, but different, showing her understanding of nature and why she remains UP OUR STREET.
WRITTEN BY 8 HOLLAND STREET CONTRIBUTING EDITOR TOM MORRIS
PHOTOGRAPHY BY OLLIE TOMLINSON
ART DIRECTION BY ALEX MASTERS
Tyga’s early work was mainly monochrome. A trip to India helped her embrace colour, which she now uses in oils, pastels and ink.
Tyga paints at the easel but more of then than not sketches on the floor, where she says she can feel more involved in a work. “I always end up there, I don't know why,” she jokes
A mixture of works nearing completion in the studio.
Past works pile up in the guest bedroom at her Wiltshire home.
The artist’s colour swatches that, like a decorator, she uses to plan her works. No wonder she cites French Nabis painter Pierre Bonnard – known as a leading colourist in the Post-Impressionist movement – as a favourite.
Exterior of her base in Wiltshire, where she made the full-time move just before lockdown in 2020 and has remained ever since.
TYGA COMPLETES THE SENTENCES ABOUT HER DAY...
I STARTED MY DAY BY…
trying to remember a nightmare and then quickly trying to forget it.
AT LUNCH I LIKE TO…
gobble down last night’s leftovers and look at other artists work. Today, it was mainly potatoes, which are very dear to me. I also looked through a beautiful book of work by Andrew Cranston - there are such delicious and suprising bits of painting.
WHAT GETS ME THROUGH IS …
baths, biscuits, Bach. Bach’s cello suites were my first classical music love and they have kept their magic for me, a comforting companion I can always go back to. On biscuits, I couldnt imagine life without a fruit club bar.
I GET DISTRACTED BY …
the birds on the feeder through the kitchen window. I love how the nuthatch feeds upside down and I get a genuine shot of adrenaline when the greater spotted woodpecker comes, theres something so magnificent about them.
I FAILED AT …
painting, for every little victory there are many, many more failures. The battles in drawing and painting are an emotional rollercoaster, but there are also practical battles and I'm pretty clumsy.
A THOUGHT I HAD …
does fantasising about colour combinations count as a thought? I’ve been thinking about browns with blues. Maybe that’s to do with coming out of a winter landscape - how one colour sits next to another colour can be so wonderful and the possibilities are endless. When a combination gets stuck in my head I’ll be hyper attuned and suddenly see it everywhere, in nature or films or in art.
A DREAM PROJECT WOULD BE…
I have always dreamt of doing a residency in a rainforest. The Amazon looks like the most sumblime place on earth.
TOMORROW I ...
feel like going on a long, slow walk and doing some fast and free drawing. My next dream walk would be by the sea, I really don't mind where...just some water and sky and a secret spot for swimming.