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Embracing the Ethereal: An Interview with Helena Rye
From pixels to pastels, an interview with Helena Rye about her art evolution
Feature 24 Jun 2024

Meet upcoming Copenhagen based artist Helena Rye.

In this insightful conversation, self-taught artist Helena Rye shares her journey from a stable career in IT to embracing her true calling as an artist. Here, Rye shares the evolution of her artistic process, the intuitive nature of her work, and how she captures the ethereal and transformative aspects of life through her art.

Helena drawing in her home studio in Copenhagen

Can you share more about your journey as a self-taught artist? What inspired you to pursue this path and how has your artistic process evolved over time?

Drawing and painting have been passions of mine since I was about ten years old. I always felt a calling to pursue art, but as I entered my teenage years and early twenties, life became busy with school, friends, and university. This led to a significant break from my art practice. I chose a more conventional path in life, of building a stable career and pursuing a ‘safe’ field in IT. However, there was always an unsettling feeling every time I strayed too far from my art practice. I slowly began to revisit my art during periods of transition between jobs, which freed up a lot of time to create and explore. For the past three years, I worked as a UI designer and front-end developer, dedicating most of my spare time to exploring my artistic skills. It wasn’t until I was laid off from my tech job that I decided to give my art an honest try. The layoff was a turning point for me. It made me realize that life is too short not to chase after your dreams. Pursuing art has always felt instinctive to me, I find immense enjoyment in the process and it simply fills my soul with so much joy. The creative process is deeply intuitive and meditative for me, providing a space where I can truly be myself. It is my mission to bring that same sense of peace and introspection to my viewers through my work. In regards to the evolution of my practice, I used to have a more perfectionist approach to creating art where I would do a lot of planning, finding the perfect reference etc. before lifting the paint brush or pencil. However, over the years my practice has become more intuitive  where I let whatever needs to be expressed emerge. When I started working with pastels, I used a lot of bright colors and pastel tones, but lately my palette features more muted colors and experimentation with light sources, to create more depth in my works. 

The Calla Lily, 2024 Soft pastels on sanded paper by Helena Rye

Your work with soft pastels and oil paint creates such an ethereal and magical experience. Can you describe your creative process and how you choose your subjects and themes?

Thank you! My creative process is very intuitive. I usually start out making a lot of sketches, and when there is something I like, I fine tune it until I am satisfied with the result. I then move on to transferring the sketch onto the canvas or pastel mat. Sometimes I also get ideas through my dreams or when I am just doing mundane everyday tasks, and then I have to quickly find a sketchbook to draw the idea while it is fresh in my mind. I love working with different elements from nature, so that is also where I find most of my inspiration. 

@Sunset Glow, 2024 Soft pastels on sanded paper by Helena Rye

Your art uses fluidity, florals, and drapery as symbols of transformation and unity with consciousness. What drew you to these specific elements, and how do they reflect your personal philosophy or experiences?

When I started this artistic journey, I didn’t have a specific message or goal in mind but each artwork is an expression of the energy that flows through me at the time of creation – a very feminine, delicate and ethereal energy. I have used my art practice as a sort of meditation session and a mental break from the outside world. In those moments of creation I’ve always felt that I connected with something larger than myself. I wanted my works to make people connect with that in themselves, a realization that we are more than this human form. Fluidity, florals and drapery are common elements found in my work. I felt drawn to work with these elements, not only for their visual beauty, but also because they all  amplify  the ethereal experience in my works. Drapery and the fluid texture creates movement and harmony in my work, it reminds me of how life really is, a dance of transitions and a balancing act. To me, the florals are a great representation of transformation, inner growth and rebirth. Combining these elements encapsulates the human experience, a journey of growth and inner transformation.

Portrait of Helena Rye

Do you prefer music or silence when you are creating your art? And if music – what artist is currently your most played? 

I prefer to listen to music while I create. I have a playlist with a mix of different songs I always put on, but lately I have been listening a lot to an electronic artist called Clozee. I feel like her music sets the perfect mood for my creations.

Living and working in Copenhagen, how has the city’s culture and environment influenced your work? Are there any local artists or artistic communities that have particularly inspired or supported you?

While I haven’t directly noticed Copenhagen’s influence on my art, growing up in Denmark has likely affected my work more than I realize. Life here is more simple and laid back, so I feel like that creates the perfect container for my art style and the way I approach my creative process. Most of my art has been created either in a secluded cabin in the Danish countryside or during my travels around the world. One of the advantages of working with drawing and pastels is that it allows you to carry your studio with you wherever you go. As a consequence, my work has been shaped by a variety of environments and experiences over the years, with a particular preference for making art surrounded by nature.

Sacred Heart, 2024 Soft pastels on sanded paper by Helena Rye

What is next in store for you and your art?

My goal for the near future is to secure my first gallery representation. Currently, I am focusing on oil painting and I am excited to create more large scale paintings in the future.

You can learn more about Helena and her work via her website: www.helenarye.com
Also make sure to follow her journey on Instagram: @helenarye

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