Helga Groves’s exquisite earthly abstractions


Drawn to extreme locations where geological change is rendered upon the landscape in violent and unpredictable ways, multidisciplinary artist Helga Groves translates the physical textures and undulations of topography into an abstract visual language of line and pattern.

Throughout her artistic practice Groves has remained a keen global traveller. Finland, Norway and Iceland have previously provided rich source material for Groves’s creative output, and in 2019 she was awarded a grant to travel to Greenland. Despite the pandemic forcing Groves to remain in Australia, she researched the geology of Greenland via the University of Wollongong. The research she undertook forms the foundation of Early Earth (Abstractions of time), a new body of work that Groves says, “extends on my sustained exploration of geophysical processes, geological time and natural phenomena.”

Through painting, photography, animation and sculpture, Groves visually references patterns and textures mostly found within the Isua Greenstone Belt of southwestern Greenland. Considered to be one of the oldest surviving samples of the earth’s surface, Groves’s Early Earth imagery blends art with scientific research and is based on the physical remnants of oceans, meteorites and mineral deposits. For example, some gridded paintings reference layers of sediment built up over millennia, while others recall ancient waterways through woven patterns created with fishing wire. For Groves, this is her way “of making water geological,” as the “weft of the weavings are like the tracks of old rivers and oceans.”

Anchoring the exhibition is The edge of the Icecap, 2021, an animation comprising of 40 graphite drawings of Isua rock. In the absence of real-time travel, Groves created this video to “facilitate my own actions through past experiences of going on field trips. It has the background sound of wind moving through space on earth and gives a clue to the conditions of environmental elements of the earth and climate. It’s like a porthole to the entire body of work.”

Early Earth (Abstractions of time)
Helga Groves
Milani Gallery
6 November—27 November

This article was originally published in the November/December 2021 print edition of Art Guide Australia.

Preview Words by Briony Downes