Curator's Statement by Trinkett Clark
Helen Evans Ramsaran
The bronze sculptures of Helen Evans Ramsaran are cerebral revelations that ignite and captivate the mind, providing intense sensations and associations that refuse to be dispelled. Although most of her work is small in scale, one cannot escape its profound impact. Ramsaran’s sculpture imparts a compelling, indelible presence that is counterbalanced by a kinetic energy and the quelling, awesome silence of time frozen in space. Through her work, with it undulating rhythms, delicate patinas, minutely incised surfaces and purity of form and composition, Ramsaran proffers an irresistible invitation to the viewer to enter the enigmatic and unfamiliar world that constitutes the artist’s creative ethos.
Since her first visit to Africa in 1981, Ramsaran has imbued her sculpture with a sense of th mystery and power connected with the ancient ceremonies that celebrate the various passages through life – initiations that mark the transition from childhood to youth to adulthood, as well as such rituals as weddings, funerals and the change of agricultural seasons. She is particularly intrigued with those rites that African women undergo in tradition-bound societies. Utilizing these recondite landmarks as a point of departure for her work, the artist demonstrates an innate sensitivity to the momentous milestones being observed. Ramsaran’s eloquent work embodies her personal interpretations of these secret phenomena as it incorporates an archaeological vocabulary employing artifacts and creatures that are tribal, architectural and agricultural in nature. Fossils, seeds, arrowheads, hunting and farming utensils, animals and kraals (rudimentary dwellings for animals found in Southern Africa) indigenous to Africa abound in her imagery. Yet Ramsaran’s sources extend beyond the mystical, primeval traditions of Africa. Her oeuvre also refers to the cultural cadences, aesthetics and spirituality of other societies and times, revealing inspirational springboards that stem especially from Mexico, China and Japan.
While Ramsaran’s work illustrates her affinity for the art of these ancient civilizations, it also establishes the artist’s inherent understanding of the fundamental principles and developments of modern sculpture. Like Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Constantin Brancusi, Julio Gonzales, Alberto Giacometti and David Smith, Ramsaran looks backward in order to move forward, reinterpreting both early and modern antecedents as she asserts her own identity. In addition, she share with these artist a love for similar materials, particularly bronze. Looked upon as the ageless medium, bronze survives elements of time and nature that other materials cannot withstand. Added to this timeless dimension, the versatility of bronze makes it a preferred medium as it enables an artist to create a sculpture that appears fragile but is extremely durable.
Regardless of the choice of medium, a strong connection to the artists mentioned above is clear when examining Ramsaran’s work. She is able to capture a moment in time, conveying in three dimensions the same kinetic linearity and palpable force that was so crucial to the work of those modern masters working earlier in this century. Reflecting the concepts of Brancusi, Gonzales, Giacometti and Smith, she had created sculpture that provides a transcendental sensation for the viewer…..
Curator of Twentieth Century Art, Chrysler Museum catalogue essay.