In ‘Yellow Giant’ Helen Schell has worked with leading solar physicists to present a series of large and dramatic artworks exploring features of the Sun and of solar science. Schell’s work is inspired by space exploration and science of the cosmos. The large paintings Total Eclipse, SUN (Rise) – Can You Fall Up?, and Yellow Giant employ optical illusions to express phenomena of space, planetary bodies and gravity, as well as directly referencing the Op Art movement of the twentieth century. Sun Rocket – Helios Rocket 2 presents a stylised image of an imagined rocket to the Sun. Reminiscent of astrological and alchemical symbols as well as Tibetan mandalas, the painting moves between science and poetic allegory. SUN-Dress for the Yellow Giantess is a huge ball-gown made from high visibility fabrics that explores the interplay of reflective light and fluorescent colours.

In collaboration with scientists Dr Gert Botha and Dr Stephane Regnier from Northumbria University, Dr Helen Mason from Cambridge University and Sun|trek (the educational website about the Sun), the gallery will show interpretive information and presentations exploring solar physics bridging the disciplines of art and science. Dr Carol Davenport from Think Physics, Northumbria University, will also provide information about careers in physics. The exhibition is part of the International Year of Light 2015.

Helen Schell was born in the USA and lives in Sunderland, UK. She studied BA Sculpture, Gloucestershire College of Art & Design (1976-80), Post Graduate in Theatre Design, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School (1981-82), Glass Techniques, Dudley College International Glass Centre (2002-03), and MA in Glass, University of Sunderland (2006-07). Exhibitions include ‘Moon-shot: First Woman on the Moon’, Vane, Newcastle upon Tyne, ‘Moon Rocket’, Esero Space Conference, York University, ‘Drawn Together’, World Monument Fund Exhibition, Durham Cathedral (2013), ‘The Faces of Time’, ArcheTime, New York (2012), ‘Space-Time Laboratory’, Durham University (2010), ‘The 11th Dimension’, Durham Cathedral, ‘I Make Time Machines’, Tron Theatre, Glasgow, ‘The Rocket Project’, Aardman Animations Ltd, Bristol (2009), ‘Time Travel X’, The George Gallery, Newnham-on-Severn (2008), ‘Capsule3 – Time’, Artscape, Gibraltar Point, Toronto (2007). She is an ESERO-UK Space Ambassador for the education wing of the European Space Agency and has twice been a judge for NASA art competitions. In April 2015, she was awarded a grant from the New York based Pollock Krasner Foundation to enable her to research and develop a series of artworks and education projects inspired by visits to the European Space Agency, UK Harwell Space Cluster and associated space industries.

Presented as part of ‘drawing?’ an extensive region-wide programme of exhibitions, events and activities which aims to celebrate, explore and consider the role of drawing in art and design, science, technology and everyday life. The programme runs until January 2016 and is a collaboration between several of the North East’s universities, galleries, museums, archives, artist-led groups, artists and makers.

Yellow Giant: gallery events

Saturday 12 September 2-4pm
Beyond Yellow: presentations and discussions
Colours of the Sun – Beyond Yellow: solar physics presentation with Dr Gert Botha and Dr Stephane Regnier (Northumbria University Solar Group)
Off-world Travels: talk by Helen Schell
Making sculpture in shallow space: talk by Richard Talbot (Head of Fine Art, Newcastle University)
Whole Brain Thinking – the synergy between art and science: audience discussion with Dr Helen Mason (Sun|trek, Cambridge University) and Dr Carol Davenport (Think Physics, Northumbria University)

Saturday 3 October 2-4pm
Our Dynamic Sun: Solar physics for families: presentation with Dr Helen Mason
Colouring in the Sun: make and take family workshop with Helen Schell