Helna Merin Joseph was born in 1996 in Changanacherry; a small hamlet in God’s own country, Kerala, India. She did her Masters in Fine Arts majoring in Sculpture securing the first division with distinction from Sarojini Naidu School of Art and Communication, University of Hyderabad, 2020. She bagged the First Rank in Bachelor of Arts with Sculpture as main from Kerala University, Raja Ravi Varma College of Fine Arts, Mavelikara, Kerala.
Helna got the great opportunity to share space with many acclaimed artists in ‘Lokame Tharavad’ International Art Exhibition, 2021, curated by Shri. Bose Krishnamachari at Alappuzha. She also had the chance to be part of Kochi Biennale Foundation twice in 2021 and 2017. Her Solo Exhibitions are ‘Solitary Reaper’ conducted in accordance with Kerala Lalitha Kala Akademi in 2018 and ‘Solitude’ exhibited at Rama Varma Raja Art Gallery, Mavelikkara, Kerala in 2018. She has been honoured to receive the Kerala Lalitha Kala Akademi Special Mention Award in 2017.
When you start realising the paradoxes of the society around you, an artist starts pondering why such paradoxes exist and this happens only to an aesthete. Being a woman and an excellent artist, Helna Merin Joseph started exploring the lives of women all around her through her artworks. Examining her own inner self and other multifaceted women surrounding her was the beginning of Helna’s artistic creations. Helna has created a unique position for herself in the arena of sculpture by accommodating her ideas and usage of colours. Art being a lifestyle for Helna was no wonder as she was always backed up by her family loaded with art practitioners.
Helna as a visual artist started her journey of art from her school days onwards. While children of her age focused on other trivialities, the creative faculty has always been nurtured by Helna which made her an outstanding young visual artist now. A whole lineage of forefathers who were all artists in different areas can rightly be called her path makers. Using the traditional wooden planks, she talks about the contemporary relevant issues of women. Though her artworks seem to be subtle in tone, the underlying fathoms get revealed to the viewers on a deep and keen sight. In Helna’s works, we can contemplate the frights and fascinations of women’s life. Carving and chiselling considered to be the domains of men, conceded to Helna thereby creating magic and offering a new vision to the contemporary sculpture sphere in Kerala. ‘Being’ a woman and ‘portraying’ how a woman is indeed has a lot of differences. She connects her work with all the women around her and these imperfections that fabricate them make her works genuine and relatable. Carved in wooden relief and painted with bright acrylic paint, which is an innovative method of artistry, her works depict the protagonists taking charge of the content of the narratives.
Colouring the wooden reliefs is not a commonly used method. Helna tried out this Promethean method after exploring and experimenting with different mediums. Her works are not very ornamental, rather is a direct portrayal of her own life, as she considers her life as her work. The focal point of all her works is gender equality, which she derived from her own life and made into thought-provoking sculptures. The wooden reliefs are always mounted on the wall manifesting a notion of woman’s forced dependence by society. One can find feminism in her works just like you see the artist herself. The Shirt Series was one of her most noted pieces of art which emerged out of the uncertainty that she felt about choosing sculpture as her main practice. Her most common attire is shirts, which she deliberately chose to shackle the very ideas of gender construction incorporated into her composition thereby showcasing how her life is inseparable from her art.
‘Betty Bought Some Bit of Bitter Butter’ is the title of her Wooden Relief Installation in Students Biennale 2021. More than 25 wooden relief works of this young promising visual artist have been included in the ‘Women Identity’ category. The Indian Cultural Relations (ICCR) National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi displayed her artwork as part of the Women’s Day programme and also she got an award from Hyundai Motor India Foundation (art for Hope) 2022. Women’s circumstances in this world are not always smooth and polished and this itself is been deciphered in Helna’s installation. Her endeavours layout a whole world of wrinkled life of women and these imperfections and rough carvings give ingenuity to the real world of women out there. Undoubtedly, Helna has carved a niche for herself in the province of sculpturing.