Helen Gørrill

Portfolio: New work

On Helen Gorrill's portraits. The Telegraph: 2018 

"Bankside's ambition is clear in the corridor off the reception, where three portraits position it as both cleverly modern and in sync with the area around it. All are the work of Helen Gorrill; all fit this British artist’s collage style of taking a famous image and adapting it with incongruous 21st-century adornments – a process she has called “vandalising old masters and reviving historical portraits through photo-bombing and combining elements from contemporary sub-cultures – often using media such as lipstick, eyeliner and human hair.

 But if her treatment of the Mona Lisa – Da Vinci’s smiling noblewoman, glamorous in a graffiti-daubed headscarf bearing the words “Stay Wild” – is merely amusing iconoclasm, her transformations of Shakespeare and Sir Christopher Wren find their targets precisely. The Bard is captured in white trainers, with a skateboard in his hand – a nod to the proximity of the Southbank Undercroft Skatepark (next to Waterloo Bridge) and the Globe Theatre. Wren has a pigeon perched on his left wrist, as a comment, perhaps, on the number of said birds you might encounter outside his greatest creation, St Paul’s, but mainly as a reminder that you can see the colossal-domed 17th-century cathedral from the entrance – and that, in setting up here, Bankside has slipped into grand, historic company.

Gorrill is represented by the Contemporary Collective – an art gallery born into the creative swirl of Hackney, east London, in 2006, and now based at Somerset House on the Strand. It has made a mission statement of “supporting young artists in the emerging stages of their careers, to provide them with meaningful exposure and access to the market place and collectors”. It will curate the hotel as, effectively, an extension of its own space, filling its walls with the paintings and visions of talented individuals."