plastic pets and toy stories'

paul cole and paul helliwell
sep 6th – oct 4th 2007

In each of Paul Helliwell’s paintings, a plastic toy animal is painted in detail and prompts normal interest in how close the resemblance is to the real world. For instance the toy dog in ‘Target’ is painted with such precision and skill the original can be very easily imagined.

Being more than one step from reality that representation often accords, these images are the last in a number of incarnations, for example they have also been generated as photographs and projections ...and so through a series of processing stages, the original toys finally become paint. Enlarged and isolated they are items of an obscure presence with the apparent weighty task of representing ‘Representation’ itself, within the paintings.

The environments within which each toy is placed, recall previous canvases, where images of reality are not suffered; where abstract, fragmented expanses play another game, with different rules. Something feels uncomfortable, we are not taught to read paintings this way. ‘Representation’ is ‘in’ the wrong painting and Abstraction won’t tolerate Figuration. The positioning of a bold recognisable figure within an unrecognisable, shifting space presents a battle of genres. ‘Isms’ in conflict.

The consequence of this situation is that mediation is necessary. For example, in ‘Bird of Paradise’ the outsized plastic chicken gives way to a more analytically forgiving treatment of its form, and in return, the surrounding space makes an effort to be an inhabitable environment as it slants upwards in the corner, hinting at a possible location for the chicken’s feet. In ‘The Little Pleader’ the toy dragon looks up into diagonal stripes of colour that come down across the painting; stripes that suggest shafts of light falling on the figure. Paul Helliwell’s paintings cultivate cooperation. They arbitrate between figuration and abstraction.

Paul Cole’s paintings begin as plasticine sculptures. A toy plane struggles to retain an identity as it is overwhelmed from behind by cloying pieces of plasticine; a toy figure is sandwiched between layers of colour. These small sculptures serve as the first phase in the making of Paul Cole’s paintings and they are an act of consummation; an assimilation of the toys by anomalous coloured blobs.

This intriguing method of instigating a painting, bizarrely, provides both a ‘scene’ and a ‘still life’ for depiction. In the ‘scene’, something is happening to the toy figure, and an appetite for fantasy and narrative is recommended. If such an interpretation is not a natural undertaking, then instead, the interaction between toy and plasticine can be promoted from undefined narrative to formal certainty. The kind of formal equation that comprises a still life, the kind of formal positioning that is everything to do with Painting.

To take this even further it dawns that the sculptures show a clear intent to think about painting not sculpture. The sculptures are created with paint in mind, before the paintings have begun, and so what better substance to use in three dimensions than coloured plasticine? These paintings invoke confidence and directness from origin to completion.





List of works:

Paul Helliwell:

1.The Little Pleader

2.Double Cross

3.The Bird of Paradise


Paul Cole:


5. Pilot

For more information please contact:
Della Gooden