Ebb+Flow Artist Feature: Sue Helmot

Ebb+Flow Artist Feature: Sue Helmot

Regional Arts WA

This story has been submitted by Sarah-Jayne Eeles, who was engaged by the Regional Arts Network to create a series of stories that celebrates the artists involved in the Ebb+Flow residency.

We love sharing stories from the sector. If you want to find out how to submit your own stories, take a look at the submit your story page. We can’t wait to hear from you!

Every Ebb+Flow artist brings something different to the North Midlands region and the program’s eighth artist in residence, Sue Helmot was no different.

Sue Helmot in her studio. Photo by Scott Brain.

The Gascoyne artist’s passion for landscapes is evident in everything she does, and it’s that connection with the environment and its contrasts from light in the sky, textures of the earth and flora, and even what lies beneath, that are all powerful inspirations for her work. The residency was the third in Sue’s creative career, but the first where she could fully immerse in completely new landscapes and environments.

“That was the first thing I did when I arrived in Carnamah. I just jumped into my car and drove through the landscape, taking in each North Midlands town along the way. I have to be in the landscape, to get a feel for it and connect what’s going on around me.

It’s about experiencing the colours, textures… the smells and all the sensory input. I was astonished by how diverse the landscapes around the different towns were in summer.

You had rural farmland, wheat stubble paddocks at that time of year, very golden colours. Then shimmering salt lakes that traverse the landscape with low-lying scrub. Other areas featured tall, elegant Salmon Gums with glistening coppery trunks, York Gums, and farmland dotted with granite outcrops. My jaw just kept dropping taking in all this beauty.”

Sue is a landscape painter who also holds a degree in ceramics and brought her experience in both mediums to the North Midlands’ project. With a focus on soils that connect the towns of the region, Sue introduced two different creative elements into her community workshops: soils spheres and soil horizon paintings. The sphere sculptures were created working with school students and community members using soils harvested from the region.

Creating soil spheres at Coorow Primary School using soil from farmland in the North Midlands. Photo by North Midlands Project.

“It’s a personal and unique experience shaping a sphere. It can be very calming. The soils have different properties, feels, textures and colours. Each soil sphere is going to be different because of the soil type and the human connection, the size of the palm of the hand of the person moulding and shaping it.

The process of mixing a sphere is quite beautiful. With each new layer of soil you add to the sphere you are building strength… I like the symbolism of that.

This art form is adapted from a Japanese technique called Dorodango. For this project I have chosen to embrace the beauty in the imperfections that some soils have revealed. In Perenjori, I spent time with a lovely group of farming women. As we all got our hands muddy forming soil spheres, conversation moved to how relaxing it was to be making these soil spheres, and that they never imagined that they could connect and create with the soil that supports their life, in this way.”

The second creative element was soil horizon paintings, a style of painting where the landscape is sectioned into thirds and each section tells part of the story of what we can see above us and what we can see below us.

“The soil horizon paintings express each young person’s story through a three-tiered landscape. We talked about what was on the surface, the things you could see, and what’s below their feet, what’s happening down there with vegetation and animals. And delve even deeper into the eco-system, things like bacteria in the soil, and how it’s all connected for good health.

By sparking that curiosity, I get them to look deeper, understand the connections. See things you might not have thought about being there.

At a Coorow workshop, I hadn’t told the kids I was working on a Soil Horizon Triptych and it was surprising when three boys told me they wanted to work together and do a triptych. They were already ruling it up and mapping it. It was so cool, they just wanted to get on with it. They created an amazing painting.  I’m hoping to show it alongside my work and the soil spheres as part of the co-created collaborative installation for the Ebb+Flow Exhibition.”

Sue working on a collaborative triptych titled Horizons on the North Midlands. Photo by North Midlands Project.

Sue’s collaborative residency artworks will include an immersive (270 cm x 270 cm) triptych oil painting Horizons of North Midlands which will form a backdrop to a display of the Soil Spheres.

“During my visits to the schools, I found the young people were really engaged. I invited them to ask lots of questions about my life as an artist. There was one really amazing question, one young person asked, “Was I born an artist?” and I thought that was a fabulous thing to wonder about and ask. The teachers are prompting more out of the workshops too. I also think that because we’re towards the end of the Ebb+Flow residencies that the young people are becoming used to having access to a diverse range of artists, which is feeding their curious minds.”

Sue was in the final days of her month-long residency during this interview with only one more workshop and engagement remaining to complete, giving her time to reflect and process on her time and experiences during the residency.                        

“It has been a stimulating experience both for my art practice and me personally. There has been so much going on simultaneously. It’s nice to take time towards the end of the residency to reflect. I have been doing a lot of journaling, to capture as much of this as I can. I’m going to miss this place.”

Discover more about Sue’s work and upcoming projects online at:




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