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Portrait of Helen Sear

About the Artist

Helen Sear first moved to Wales in 1984 after completing an HDFA at the Slade School, University College London. Her photographs became widely known in the 1991 British Council exhibition, De-Composition: Constructed Photography in Britain, which toured Latin America and Eastern Europe. Her work was included in the exhibition About Face at the Hayward Gallery, London in summer 2004 and La Mirada Reflexiva at the Espai D’Art Contemporani in Castellon Spain in 2005. Recent solo exhibitions include, Inside The View, shown at Gallery Harmonia in Finland in 2006, g39 Cardiff who also published the bookwork Tale in 2009, Beyond The View, Hoopers Gallery London, Klompching Gallery New York and Bildkultur, Stuttgart, 2010-12. Ffotogallery published her first major monograph in 2012 Inside The View. GOST published the bookwork Brisées in 2013 which accompanied a major national tour Lure in the same year. Her most recent exhibition was at the 5th edition of Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie en Gaspesié, Quebec, Canada. Summer 2014.

Helen Sear is the first female artist to be selected for a solo exhibition for Cymru yn Fenis/Wales in Venice with …the rest is smoke. Known as one of Wales’ most significant contemporary artists, Sear continues to explore sensory ideas and expressions, vision, touch, and the re-presentation of the nature of experience, in this case with particular reference to her immediate environment in rural Wales.


The artist is represented by Klompching Gallery, New York

Turner House Gallery

Presenting Organisation

Ffotogallery is the national development agency for photography and lens-based media in Wales. Our view is outward looking, with an exhibition programme featuring artists from Wales and the rest of the world. Through exhibitions, publications, courses, educational projects and events, we continue to present the contemporary photographic image in a rich and widening context of critical and historical debate. As well as being selected to curate and present Cymru yn Fenis/Wales in Venice 2015, Ffotogallery runs the biennial Diffusion: Cardiff International Festival of Photography and we are the lead organisation for European Prospects, a pan-European cooperation programme enabling increased artist mobility and intercultural dialogue and exchange.


Ffotogallery's Director David Drake introduces the project

Ffotogallery director David Drake

For Cymru yn Fenis/Wales in Venice 2015 we present ‘…the rest is smoke’ by artist Helen Sear, an official Collateral Event of the 56th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.

Commissioned by the Arts Council of Wales and curated by Ffotogallery, ‘…the rest is smoke’ comprises a suite of new work conceived for and presented in five discrete spaces within the Santa Maria Ausiliatrice, a church and former convent in the Castello area of Venice.

Ffotogallery has enjoyed a longstanding relationship with the artist, publishing Sear’s thirty- year retrospective monograph Inside The View in 2012, and we previously exhibited her work on several occasions both internationally and in Wales.

For Cymru yn Fenis/Wales in Venice, Ffotogallery appointed to our exhibition team independent curator Stuart Cameron and assistant curator/project manager Kathryn Standing. Cameron curated the artist’s first major exhibition in Wales, and their relationship has been built up over thirty years engendering a strong basis of mutual respect and confidence. Cameron’s curatorial rapport with the artist, and sensitivity to the ideas and creative impulses in her work, has been critical to the development and realisation of this project.

As befits a collateral project, ‘…the rest is smoke’ is both rooted in the local and familiar landscapes of Wales, and responds to the wider context of the Venice Biennale. For the 56th edition of La Biennale di Venezia, curator Okwui Enwenzor has chosen the theme ‘All The World’s Futures’, examining the relationship between art and the development of the human, social and political world. Although ‘…the rest is smoke’ was not developed specifically in response to this theme, it chimes well with it. The affective qualities of the work actively engage the viewer in the illusionistic space of the image, in dialogue with the architecture of the physical space in which it is sited, disrupting the single point perspective in order to present landscapes and their relationships with the human body as something immersive and complex.

For this accompanying online project Experience Wales in Venice, we are pleased to be working closely with the selected artists of ACW's Invigilator Plus programme. As well as creating a web platform to showcase Helen Sear and the exhibition, we are working with the fifteen artists to document their individual experiences of Wales in Venice. We are making available a wealth of resources for online audiences, such as artist interviews, documentation of the exhibition evolving as well as downloadable workshops for schools. In addition to the fantastic work done in Venice by the invigilators we are hoping that the website will provide new audience insights and contribute to critical dialogue around Helen’s work internationally.

Arts Council Wales

The Commissioner

Arts Council of Wales is the country’s funding and development agency for the arts. Its vision is of a creative Wales where the arts are central to the life of the nation and to ensure that the contribution of the arts is recognised, valued and celebrated.



Wales has shown as a Collateral Event at the Venice Biennale since 2003. Our presence at the Biennale gives a platform for visual art from Wales on the world’s most prestigious international stage. The Venice Biennale is critically important for the profile, reputation and future careers of artists selected to represent Wales and for the image of Wales as a country that seeks to promote its contemporary culture worldwide, distinguishing Wales' cultural profile with high quality art. The exhibition from Wales is commissioned and managed by Arts Council of Wales with support of grant in aid from the Welsh Government.

Cymru yn Fenis/Wales in Venice works in co-operation with colleagues organising Scotland + Venice (Creative Scotland), and with British Council who present the British Pavilion and lead on valuable co-ordination of promotion of British and allied collateral exhibitions in Venice.


Biennale 2015

About the Venice Biennale

The Venice Biennale of Art is the leading international event for the Visual Arts. Established in 1895, the Art Biennale has an attendance today of over 300,000 visitors, attracting 30,000 key international curators, critics, collectors and artists and political and cultural representatives to the three-day Vernissage (preview) period alone. The Biennale takes place in two official sites in Venice: the Arsenale, which hosts the international exhibition, and the Giardini di Castello in the east of the city, which houses the historic national pavilions.

Okwui Enwezor is the curator of 56th International Art exhibition. All the World’s Futures will feature over 136 artists from 53 countries, of whom 88 will be showing here for the first time.


Press Release

Arts Council of Wales is delighted that Helen Sear has been selected to represent Cymru yn Fenis/Wales in Venice at the Venice Biennale running from 9 May to 22 November 2015. ‘The rest is smoke’ is an official Collateral Event of the 56th International Art Exhibition. This will be the first time for Wales to present a solo exhibition by a female artist.

Collateral Events selected by the Director of the Biennale are organised by non–profit national and international bodies and institutions. Forty-four Collateral Events have been selected to take place across the city this year, enriching the diversity of voices that characterizes the Venice Biennale.

Download the full press release

The Team

The Team

Cymru yn Fenis/Wales in Venice 2015 is a partnership between Arts Council of Wales, the Commissioner of the project, and Ffotogallery, the organisation selected to curate and deliver the presentation.

The rationale for presenting in Venice and what we seek to achieve is reflected in the partnership’s aims to:

  • Present the most exciting and creative artists associated with Wales
  • Focus international and national attention on the diverse range of critically valued work in, from and to do with Wales
  • Create international experiences and connections for galleries, curators and artists that will develop the visual arts in Wales
  • Celebrate Wales in the World as dynamic, culturally engaged and forward-looking

The Commissioner’s team is:

  • Louise Wright, Lead Commissioner
  • Sian James, Communications and PR
  • Cerys Thomas, Invigilation programme
  • David Alston, Arts Director
  • Andrew Richards, Head of Business Development

Venue Management and Permission service in Venice were provided by Paul Bradley, with Local Facilitation by Barbara del Mercato

The commissioner would like to thank:

Stefano Pillinini and Paolo Dedè; Municipalita de Venezia, and Paolo Scibelli, Fondazione La Biennale di Venezia for their continued collaboration.

Ffotogallery’s Exhibition Team is:

  • David Drake, Project Director
  • Stuart Cameron, Curator
  • Kathryn Standing, Assistant Curator/Project Manager
  • Lisa Edgar & Anne Siegel, Learning and Engagement | Website Concept & Video Production
  • Chantal Harrison-Lee, Finance and Logistics
  • Marc Arkless, Technical Support

Special acknowledgement from Ffotogallery’s exhibition team is due to composer Matthew Lovett, Andy Moss and the Spike Island Film and Video Team, Stefhan Caddick, Papergecko Design, Steve Connor, Emma Pettit, Rosalind Arratoon and Luke Neve, Margaret PR, Paul Bradley Studio, Oliver Norcott and Pete Goodrich, Art Works Exhibition Services Limited, David Shepherd/Echidna Design.

Ffotogallery also expresses our gratitude for the expertise and guidance offered by the Cymru yn Fenis/Wales in Venice Advisory Committee, chaired by Dr. Kate Woodward, including the late Osi Rhys Osmond, former Chair of Committee and Council Member of Arts Council of Wales, Mike Tooby, Ben Borthwick, Ann Jones, Karen MacKinnon and Nicholas Thornton. Secretariat provided by Eleri Allsobrook, Arts Council of Wales.