Below is a selection of exhibitions and a fuller list of exhibitions is posted at the bottom of the page.

Edge and Shore: Acts of Doing

Whitechapel Gallery

4th August 2016

Whitechapel Gallery, London, Gallery 1. Thursday 4 August. Images Gorm Ashurst.

‘“Play” is a vast, free-and-far-ranging term for what this interaction… conjured out of found objects, simple tasks, hands-on curiosity and a willingness, on each artist’s part, to embrace the unpredictable and build on it.Mary Brennan, The Herald

Visual artist Helen Carnac and dance artist Laïla Diallo present Edge and Shore, a work exploring the edges and boundaries of making and working, performance and installation. The work is a development of an extended research project where the artists have considered process and making, exploring where the borders of their two creative practices meet and permeate.

Previously shown as a larger durational work including film and installation elements, this two-hour iteration draws on its previous incarnations and reflects on the prevailing environment at the Whitechapel Gallery and the materiality of the Heilman and Sonnier artworks.


Edge and Shore: Acts of Doing 

Arnolfini, Bristol

8th – 12th July 2015

Edge and Shore: Acts of Doing

Dovecot, Gallery Edinburgh.

30 Jan – 7 Feb 2015

Edge and Shore 2014 -15

Visual artist Helen Carnac and dance artist Laïla Diallo present Edge and Shore, a new work exploring the edges and boundaries of making and working, performance and installation.

Working within the gallery space the artists reveal an ever-evolving work that brings together objects, images, film, writing and live making. A development of an extended research project where the artists considered process and making, the work explores where the borders of their two creative practices meet and permeate.

The artists develop the work in the space through a series of live interventions and installations, working with collected and found materials, work made during previous iterations of Edge and Shore and adding new objects and materials found within Dovecot and the surrounding area. Throughout the making process, Carnac and Diallo consider how location, space and the people around them imbue a work particular to that moment in time and leave a trace.

The work offers an insight into the making process which is highlighted for two hours each day (2pm-4pm) when the artists are in a focused period of activity in the space. Visitors are invited into the space throughout the day to see the work progress and encouraged to come back at regular intervals over the eight-day period to observe the different states that a work might take in a process of live making.

Edge and Shore is a progression of Side by Side (2012), a six week residency initiated by Siobhan Davies Dance in partnership with the Crafts Study Centre where the two artists were invited to investigate the act and process of cross-disciplinary making.

This work is commissioned by Siobhan Davies Dance and supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. Developed with additional support from Battersea Arts Centre, Bristol City Council, Bristol Old Vic Ferment, Quay2C and Stroud Valleys Artspace.

For further details about the work and visit the Edge and Shore blog.

In to and Out of the field 2013

In to and out of the field 2013

‘This piece is a collection of pieces that I have found or made and I think of them as describing some sort of journey into the past whilst reflecting into the future. I often use objects as thinking points and so all these objects or paraphernalia have something about them that enables me to develop thinking.

I have mapped out where some of them come from, when they were found or when they were made below and tried to include, where known, who they belonged to.

I use the laying out and moving around of work/objects a great deal in my work – it’s an active thinking process.

The piano tuner.

I did not meet or know the piano tuner. The late father of the friend, some of his materials were given to my partner, David, some years ago. One day, on coming across them I was struck by the beauty and care with which they had been wrapped, stored, sorted, kept and cared for. I often take these things out of their various boxes and wrappings. I sometimes arrange/ rearrange them or use parts of them in my work. I often think about this man I did not know. About his trade, about what he made and repaired. I look at these carefully labelled boxes and their contents and imagine him.

2012-04-19 20.13.54

The jeweller

About 11 years ago when I was working at a London university I received a phone call from a man in Colchester saying that he had a large cache of tools to sell. It turned out that he was a retired professional jeweller who was now dedicated to restoring vintage cars and needed to clear out his old things. I ended up visiting him and of course buying all his tools. Included in this were several boxes of various oddments, tools, scraps, and the beginnings of projects that had never been finished.

During our meeting he told me some stories that have stayed with me – of his days working in Hatton Garden, the centre of London’s jewellery trade and of his move to set up a jewellery shop in Blackheath. Of how, after the second world war, he would re-polish and sell-on sewer finds – cutlery etc and that he and his team would illegally gold plate base metal sovereigns and sell them as gold ones.


Jack Wax and Miyuki

In 2007 I visited Richmond, Virginia to work at Virginia Commonwealth University. It’s an early point when I really started collecting and laying out my finds as part of my work. It probably happened there as the streets were littered with pieces of metal and so I spent a great deal of time picking things up. It didn’t take long to amass a huge collection of pieces from around the streets closest to the University. I extended this process to the Alleys radiating away from there and then began to sift further out through Alleys and streets on visits to friends and colleagues.

On a visit to friends Jack and Miyuki I collected a huge amount of found metal with Miyuki, along the alley at the back of their home – old locks, nails, ring pulls (of various ages and descriptions), paper clips and other paraphernalia. Shortly after returning home I exhibited these pieces in an exhibition called Process Works.

Recently on a visit to the USA, to my surprise and delight, I received a box of new finds from Jack and Miyuki from the same Alley.


Why are these objects and associations important to me and what do they mean in the context of an exhibition about landscape?

I can’t say that I use landscape directly in my work in the way that you may directly recognise a configuration or laying out of a landscape. I do though see landscape as being important in a broader context.

Over time the objects that I collect and make form the back bone of my work and I see the collection and documentation and making from these objects as forming a type of landscape that I navigate daily.


One thing that I find persistently interesting is that many of these objects that I collect were formally part of a different market – commodities, parts of things that have been consumed or the beginnings of things that were made into pieces to sell or used in the construction or mending/repair of something which may now be redundant.

But I don’t see these objects as being redundant… they have become something else.

These objects perform as markers in time, reminders of what was and what can be. In the active moving of these things around, in handling them, in altering and composing with them they are important thinking things. I use them in a hands on way that I know that I could not do if I was just looking at them here in these photographs. Through handling them I know more of them and I hope I can convey that somehow in the work.

In the gallery they again enter a market and I hope too that they can share new meaning as a whole…and in this they are active and somewhat live things that live through my ongoing work’.



1 Washer dryer: Spruce Pines, North Carolina, 2010

2 Enamel, London, 2010

3 Paper, Berlin 2011

4 film, london, 1998

5 Domino, car boot sale Wiltshire, 2007

6 Enamel 2012

7 Pebble, Dungeness beach 2012

8 switch, Dungeness Beach, 2012https://helencarnac.wordpress.com/2012/08/13/dungeness-2/

9 Burrs, Jeweller Colchester, Essex, 2003

10 plastic, Dungeness 2006

11 whisk, Penland, NC, USA, 2010

12 enamel vessel, london, 2009

13 enamel vessel, london, 2009

14 Wire, Ruthin, 2002

15 Can top, Dungeness, 2010

16 Enamel, Haystack, Maine, USA, 2013

17 Rubber, Dungeness, 2012

18 Pine cone, Dungeness, 2012

19 Paper clip, Berlin, 2011

20 Sand, Campo Bello Island, Canada, 2013

21 Lead, 2010

22 Burr, jeweller, Colchester, Essex, 2003

23 Off cut, 2006

24 Tin from West Norwood, London, 2011

25 Enamel, Seattle, USA, 2011

26 Brush, Dungeness, 2010

27 Staple/pin, Richmond, Virginia, USA, 2008

28 Paper, London, 2011

29 Enamel, Seattle, USA, 201I

30 From the allotment, south London

31 cupcake, West Norwood skip, with wood from Roussillon, France 2012

32 earth from Roussillon, France, 2012, plastic pot from estate of enameller,1998

33 Burr from Jeweller, Cochester, Essex, 2002

34 from Piano tuner/maker’s collection 1990’s

35 old nails, found 1990’s by David

36 Piano tuners/maker’s things 1990’s

37 Piano tuners/maker’s things 1990’s

38 Brush, Dungeness, 2009

39 Part of drive belt, Dungeness, 2009

40 Enamel, London, 2011

41 steel off-cut, 2008

42 off cut

43 Ruler from Tool at hand Exhibition, 2011

44 Found Richmond, Virginia, 2007

45 top of can, Penland NC, USA, 2009

46 Piano tuner/amker’s parts and found round, Rye Harbour, 2013

47 enamel piece made from drawing, 2011

48 Found metal, Penland North Carolina, USA 2010

to be cont...

The Tool at Hand 2012 -2014

Early in 2011 I was invited by Ethan Lasser of the Chipstone Foundation to make work with just one tool. After much thought I decided to use my rolling mill. It’s a tool that I have had for about 7 years and it has some history, it belonged to a silversmith who worked in Hatton Garden in the 1950s, he then moved to Blackheath and worked from a shop there. I often think about him, as I have many of his old tools and so I guess in some respects we have a connection, though I only met him once, for about an hour, when I bought many of his tools from him. He told me some wonderful stories about how he used to work including re-polishing and selling cutlery that had been found in the London sewers.

I think that in my work I try to tell some sort of story…the story of where something has come from and particularly about the marks that have been left behind. I often use walking as a tool, to understand place, understand the stuff of a place and to wander and think and sometimes to collect things. I guess the wandering is like drawing a line and as I am interested in the drawn line I would say that there is a connection to walking and making marks for me.

The furthest I got walking in this project, though, was around my studio and I decided to document a series of things found in my studio by capturing their imprints on different papers by pushing, rolling and squashing them through the mill.

We were asked to make a short film to go with the work which you can see here and I decided to display the work in archival boxes. There are 8 boxes and each contains a selection of pieces under the titles: Findings; Drawn; Dyad; Emerge; Foils; Impression; Floating and Resolution. I probably made about 400 hundred prints in total and so honing in on which to show was a process of both selection and of course elimination.

The exhibition opens tomorrow at Milwaukee Art Museum and shows until April 2012, after which it will go on tour (more info to follow).


Drawing, (im)permanence and place…Helen Carnac 2011

‘Alterity, we are told, is non linear. The other side of the coin, however is to assume that life is lived authentically on the spot, in places rather than along paths. Yet how could there be places, I wondered if people did not come and go? Life on the spot surely cannot yield an experience of place, of being somewhere. To be a place every somewhere must lie on one or several paths of movement to and from places elsewhere. Life is lived, I reasoned, along paths, not just in places, and paths are lines of a sort. It is along paths, too, that people grow into a knowledge of the world around them and describe this world in the stories they tell’ Tim Ingold..Lines a short History

My work considers and is consumed by paths, lines, marks and time…in no particular order they run alongside and across each other. My practice is grounded in the environment and I develop projects using design methodologies that are rooted in an acute awareness of physical location, place and working practices. The populated environment is of key importance to me. Through my practice and projects I aim to bring people together, creating social and creative engagement and collaboration in an open-ended design process.

I am concerned with relationships between humans and nature through observing short-term day-to-day impacts and longer term temporally evolved traces of co-existence. In practice this may involve watching for and identifying small change. I make observations through walking known routes over and over again, by understanding unknown place through journeying and collecting or by observing material change through using empirical and experimental methodologies in developing my work. I seek to track traces and patterns and to develop more metaphorical understandings.

My approach to material comes from a background in making and the use of my primary material, metal. I have an acutely developed tacit or embodied understanding of material and the handling of it. In order to develop work materially, I have to have the ability to accommodate change and to take measured risk. In this process there is the knowledge at the outset that I do not know emphatically what will happen, but through an innate understanding of this material I can push it knowledgeably into new directions. It may be called a material-based scientific view.

When developing projects I find approaches through which I can look for likely or unlikely connections to people and the environments that we live in. I seek to look below the surface, to dig deeper and to pose questions, even when they may not be answered. I usually develop a brief from a site-specific perspective and most recently have explored the environs of Seattle, Antwerp and Berlin, from which I have drawn on material for this body of work.

When working I collect visual material using photography, within and alongside my drawing and enamel work. Sifting through my recent images of Berlin, I am struck by a lack of permanence, of a layering of marks that gradually define change: that, even if a building seems permanent in its structure, its surrounding or surface may be changing, sometimes seemingly before us. Any surface is a potential canvas, no surface escapes being graffitied, marked, tagged or stuck onto or indeed being influenced by natural changes in the atmosphere.

It is this that I am enthralled by.

‘The abstractions of nature in juxtaposition with the abstractions of human activities are two forces at work’

I try to acknowledge language as a key and primary issue when moving about: how for example, we may use the same words differently in different locations, that we don’t always have the right words, so need to borrow from other language(s) and that we may not assume to have a universal understanding of words, both in cultural and historical terms.

Can language be permanent? Can it stick? Or does it fade and change as we change and how is drawing or marking part of this language?

Drawing is a physical and embodied process that can convey something of a place. Marking is a human activity that embodies something of the physical act of drawing. The marks that are left behind in the cityscape, whether knowingly or not, seem to act as a language. Can these marks communicate something about place-ness and of time, perhaps about how they were left or subsequently captured, that quietly reveals something more about our need to make or leave a mark?

copyright Helen Carnac

copyright and thanks to Chris Stock for photos…











2016 Edge and shore: Acts of Doing, Whitechapel Gallery, London

2015 Edge and shore: Acts of Doing, Arnolfini, Bristol

2015 Edge and Shore: Acts of Doing, Dovecot, Edinburgh

2015 SOFA: Chicago

2014 Writing and Object: Galerie Handwerk, Munich

2014 Galerie Noel Guyomarc’h: Montréal (Québec)

2014 Back From the Front, WW1 Centenary Commemoration: Royal West of England Academy, Curated by Paul Gough and Elizabeth Turrell: Catalogued

2013 Setting the Scene, New Landscapes: Farnham, UK. Catalogued ISBN978 0 9570212 4 2

 2013 This How We Are: Kunstverein, Munich and touring

 2011 The Tool at Hand, Milwaukee Art Museum: Catalogued and touring http://mam.org/exhibitions/details/the-tool-at-hand.php http://www.artbabble.org/video/chipstone/tool-hand-helen-carnac

2011 91ft 5” Installation: Institute of Making, Kings College, London

2011 – 12 Drawing, Permanence, Place: Kunstverein, Coburg, and touring Catalogued ISBN 978-0-9560266-3-7

2010,2011 SOFA: New York

2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 Collect: Saatchi Gallery, London, Catalogued

2010 Under The Counter: Smiths Row Gallery

2009 In Transit: 84GHz, Munich

2008  In Response To: 84GHz, Munich

 2008 Elizabeth Turrell and Helen Carnac: University of East Carolina

2007 Process Works: University of Hertfordshire Galleries and touring. Catalogued ISBN 978-0-9554379-1-5

2007 Badges: Museum der Arbeit, Hamburg and touring USA. Catalogued ISBN 978-1-906501-00-6

2007 Anti War Medals: Gallery I/O, Thomas Mann, New Orleans.

2004 Anti War Medals: Curated by Velvet Da Vinci, Touring: Electrum, London Norway and USA

2003 David Gates and Helen Carnac: Flow, London

2002 Diaspora Cymreig: Ruthin Gallery: touring and catalogue ISBN 1 900941 50 3

2001/2002 Home Sweet Home: group show, curated by Lesley Jackson for the British Council catalogued and touring

2000 Contemporary British Silver: A Crafts Council Touring Exhibition catalogued

Contemporary British Silver: Gallery Marzee, Netherlands

1999 Heim und Handwerk: Munich

1996 Living at Belsay: Belsay Hall, Northumberland. Catalogued

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