Born in New Zealand, Helene until her late 20’s lived back and forth between Australia and NZ. Her NZ family life was “standard” with no particular expectations, whereas her Australian life was totally different. She lived on a boat in Mosman Bay, Sydney, wore jeans, rowed her own dinghy to school and lived with her father (who was a creative writer and innovative motor journalist ) and with her step mother (who was one of Australia’s top multi-award winning copywriters in advertising). Her father insisted she attend university where she wanted to study for medicine but on return to NZ she was not permitted to study relevant subjects. Thus the model was set for her life patterns ie: being forbidden to pursue something : finding a way around the barrier : confronting and educating.
Helene attended the University of Canterbury on a teaching scholarship, officially studying French but in fact picking up and studying subjects which would allow her to study medicine. She was not permitted to do Honours however, as her Scholarship believed she was studying French not sciences, nor was she permitted to go to the Antarctic as she was female – so the pattern continued. She married (briefly), and travelled to Adelaide where she taught High School - but being “untrained”, she and the students developed a new way of teaching with tremendous success – and the Inspectors agreed to register her. She later taught in Sydney and NZ – but in NZ her students received detentions for thinking and questioning – so she left because she could not morally continue.
She took up Nursing, initially Psychiatric but soon changed to General because medical practices in the large Psych Hospitals were very poor. She did introduce many innovative ideas & techniques while there however. While completing her General & Maternity Nursing she also assisted in Psycho/Social Group Therapy (mainly for Mental Health workers), working with a very ‘avant garde’ Psychiatrist. Helene was also President of the Student Nurses’ Assoc.; the Regional Representative and a Member of the NZ Nurses Board Education Committee. She encouraged Nurses and students to participate in education, assisted to form the University training programmes : introduced and revised a wide range of hospital practises and organised conferences to update Doctors and Qualified Nurses.
Unfortunately, she suffered a stroke which ultimately resulted in a major back injury. Because she was a known “change agent” (and agents tend to be regarded with suspicion), people were glad to see the ‘end’ of her. The stroke was considered psychological, and she was not diagnosed or treated until she came to Perth eighteen months later. Forbidden to work, she took up art while in Rehabilitation initially as a hobby or possibly a home industry. Helene instead, completed her Fine Art Diploma at Claremont School of Art and then continued to study at ECU for her BA. Her work was controversial and confronted varying social issues including the meaning of “Art” in today’s society. Continuing her studies was difficult but eventually UWA accepted her for their Master’s programme and she continued her painting with light experiments while attempting to organise working with the Neuroscience Dept. to continue her work of brain programming. Unfortunately this did not eventuate and Helene withdrew from her serious artwork for home reasons.
During the next period, Helene taught art at Atwell Arts Centre and assisted them to re-invigorate the dying centre. The voluntary workload was very demanding and eventually a decision had to be made. Helene had to decide which path to take and for financial / social reasons she returned to Nursing. In this capacity she mainly worked as an educator, writing training programs and new assessment techniques to assist in obtaining Govt Grants and so on. When this ended for health reasons, art for Helene disappeared also. Too many years had passed and the lack of continuity with her innovative work meant she could not immediately be considered for university. Later another obstacle arose – a brain tumour – operated on in 2014. It may / may not be removed.
It was not until 2017 when she decided to go through her house full of work that friends began suggesting she have an exhibition as most of the work had not been publicly seen. Thus an exhibition is arranged for the end of February 2018. Slowly her interest in painting has also rekindled and maybe her all encompassing innovative and confrontational art will also regenerate. Time will tell.