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Helen Dean: A journey in colour and expression

31 Jan 2024

Helen Dean, a UK-born artist with a Bachelor's in Fine Art, has carved a niche for herself in the vibrant world of abstract painting. Nestled in a bush-surrounded studio in Titirangi, West Auckland, Helen's work captivates with its gestural shapes, dynamic movement, and, above all, a rich exploration of colour.

Helen's artistic journey began in the '90s when she pursued a Fine Arts degree, specialising in painting, at an art school in the UK. However, it wasn't until 2015, after relocating to New Zealand, that she rediscovered her passion for painting. Surrounded by the beauty of nature, Helen embarked on her creative exploration, starting with small, simple colour blocks and shapes.

Her early years were a slow and deliberate process, allowing her to develop a deep connection with paint and colour. This foundation of exploration has given her the confidence to take risks in her artistic process, resulting in the multi-layered, colour-rich abstract paintings that define her unique style today. 


Helen's work is a celebration of colour, where each layer and shade holds significance. She pays meticulous attention to colour combinations, often drawing inspiration from her daily life, whether it's the hues of a coloured wall, the patterns of textiles, the beauty of nature or the nostalgia of vintage illustrations. Her art becomes a bridge, connecting viewers to her pieces through the magnetic pull of particular shades.


Painting flat on the floor, Helen employs brushes, squeegees, water sprays and rags to manipulate the paint, embracing imperfections and messiness while striking a balance between gestural spontaneity and deliberate precision.


While painting is a significant part of Helen's life, it shares the stage with her role as a teacher. The balance between teaching and solitary painting time provides her with a fulfilling creative journey. During the challenging times of the Covid pandemic, Helen's painting career soared, allowing her to reduce her teaching hours and explore the depths of her artistic expression.

Helen's frames are painted exclusively with Resene paint, with her favourite colour being Resene Alluring, a dusky pink with a greyish undertone. Pink, in various shades, often finds its way into her artworks, serving as a neutral backdrop that enhances every painting and interior space.


Helen's talent has garnered attention, leading to various notable achievements. She was commissioned by NZ fashion designer Juliette Hogan to create a painting, later turned into a print for the 2022.01 collection. Recently, she completed a dream commission – crafting 10 large paintings for the new Skycity Hotel set to open in March 2024. Helen is now gearing up for a solo exhibition at Turua Gallery in Auckland in June.


Helen Dean's artistic journey shows us the power of patience, exploration and a deep connection with one's craft. Her multi-layered, colour-rich abstract paintings not only showcase her technical prowess but also invite viewers to embark on their own visual journey.

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Published: 31 Jan 2024