Artist Helen brings the voices of homeless people to life

26 Jun 2014
by Neil Skinner

A Southwell grandmother has unveiled a provocative new art installation at a Nottingham gallery in a bid to boost people’s understanding of what it means to be homeless.

Helen Sills, 72, of Dunham Close has been studying for a degree in Fine Arts at the University of Nottingham for the last six years. A board member at Framework, she has chosen to base much of her work on the subject of homelessness.


Helen discusses her work on camera

Mrs Sills, one of several students currently exhibiting her work at the university’s Djanogly Art Gallery, has placed the issue of street homelessness at the centre of her final degree installation, “Darkness Visible”.  Featuring a wooden shelter, a talking duvet telling the stories of real life case studies, and a fictional estate agents’ guide of prominent rough sleeping spots, this striking audio visual piece confronts viewers with the stark realities of street homelessness.

She explained: “Over the past two years I have concentrated my work on the plight of homeless people. I am grateful to Framework’s Street Outreach Team for taking me around various rough sleeping sites in Mansfield, Nottingham and Lincolnshire.

“Although I have a background in social services I was very shocked at the places we found people sleeping rough. One of the reasons for doing this is to make people more aware of the realities of street homelessness and bring to life the stories of the people affected by it.

“Darkness Visible is a phrase from Milton’s Paradise Lost, where the Poet describes the situation of people who are in hell; that they can be seen but that there is darkness all around them. It seemed a very appropriate title for this work. If this work can raise people’s consciousness about homelessness then I would have succeeded in what I am trying to do.”

Mrs Sills’ work is currently on display at the Djanogly Art Gallery in Nottingham, along with several other thought-provoking pieces from her fellow final year students. The exhibition will remain in place until July 6 and is accessible between 11am and 5pm Monday to Saturday, and between midday and 4pm on Sunday.

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