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Mixing the real and the perceived -the abstract paintings of Helena Barbagelata

Volume II featured artist, Helena Barbagelata is a model, multidisciplinary artist, activist, writer and researcher for whom art is an open dialogue with the world, where the other side of the mirror reflects a sphere of experiences in which the physical and the abstract coexist harmoniously.

Joana Alarcão

The artist Helena Barbagelata, born in 1991, considers art as an open dialogue with the world, reflecting experiences in which physical and abstract exist side by side. As a model, Barbagelata traveled all over the world and lived in many different cultures which influenced her work in a multitude of unprecedented ways. In most of Barbagelata’s abstract works an environment of perception merges, mixing the real and the perceived, becoming an intersection between the palpable and the imagined.

First of all, tell us a bit about your background and studies. What kind of education or training helped you develop your approach to art? 

All my life experiences and education, whether formal or informal, contributed to my artistic development; sometimes, small everyday events can have a very important impact on my creations, so I am always attentive to everything that is unfolding around me. sometimes these small details can be the cornerstones of a work of art, other times they can bring fundamental nuances and additions to complete a piece.

You have a background in modelling. How did this experience influence your art?

Working in the fashion industry as a model opened up several interpretive dimensions for me, both in terms of working with the expressiveness of the body, understanding compositional anatomy, being able to convey concepts and emotions through that silent theater stage shaped in gestures, as well as being a part of the symbiosis that is established between the whole team on set. It gives you an appreciation of the composition of an artistic frame and the painstaking work put into each element. This collaborative work and the integration between spirit and energy is also to be found in the dedication of the ateliers in the careful confection of their pieces, the rigorous needlework, the meticulousness in the choice of fabric, in the assembly of the collections. Fashion is art that is wearable and liveable through one’s own body, that can narrate a story and speak of a culture and of a time as any other art form. Today I am able to work with ateliers dedicated to creating sustainable clothing alternatives, as well as coming up with different collaborative projects that involve an artistic intersection between painting and fashion.

You are a versatile multidisciplinary artist, but what is your preferred medium of choice, the one you will always come back to? 

I cannot understand my artistic experience as a divorce between its different parts; when I think and develop an idea, it appears already connected to all these different elements, mediums and textures. What I establish as a constant reference is without a doubt the freedom of creation and movement, in which I allow myself to navigate this open space and remain receptive to the many variations it may bring along the process. I enjoy allowing my ideas to challenge me to explore new paths and experiment with new resources, techniques and forms of artistic expression.

In your latest project, Fire and Brimstone, you reference the importance of fire prevention and that “Nature is our most valuable heritage and fire prevention rests entirely in our hands.'' Why is this idea so important to you? And how did you translate it into practice? 

Humans are responsible for the vast majority of wildfires, it is a problem that plagues us globally and which is the direct result of a lack of environmental awareness, a devastating widespread metastasis; the action of man on nature has led to the disappearance of microbiomes and desertification, we are losing our breathing lungs by setting forests ablaze and the consequences will be irreversible; a paradox since we are extinguishing our own sources of oxygen, not to mention the staggering impact human-induced fires can have upon human lives and the economy. Climate change is also one of the biggest drivers of increased fires, excess drought, fuel buildup in unburned forests, earlier seasons and higher temperatures are all contributing to more combustible forests. I feel that there is not enough education on the subject and the project serves to add to this awareness, as it will travel through various exhibition spaces in different countries and take on different formats, within painting, audiovisual and artistic recycling actions within the community.

Read more about the artist on Volume II of the magazine.

"Fire and Brimstone" (2022)

80% of fires have their origin in human activities, large areas of our geography are potentially affected by the desertification process and one of the main factors is the loss of forest cover due to repeated forest fires. In her mosaic, "Fire and Brimstone", Barbagelata explores ecological perspectives through thought, feeling and the senses. An artistic awareness of the importance of valuing forest assets, ensuring their conservation and recognition as our own legacy to our future generations. Nature is our most valuable heritage and fire prevention rests entirely in our hands.


Helena Barbagelata (1991). Model, multidisciplinary artist, activist, writer and researcher. Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Salamanca. She has received several artistic awards from the Onassis Foundation, the Greek Government's Ministry of Culture and Sports, the University of Trieste, the University of Valencia, the University of Barcelona, ​among others. Member of the Israeli Artist Network (IAN) America Israel Cultural Foundation, Society of Jewish Artists (SoJa), and The Organization for the Democratization of the Visual Arts (ODBK). Her works combine painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, video, sound art and engraving. She held numerous solo and group exhibitions in Israel, Europe, South America, Australia, and the United States.

See more of Barbagelata works here.


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