Helis Podnek

Helis Podnek: From Nothing to All
The Art Incubator Gallery: April 30 – June 12, 2021
Harcourt House Artist Run Centre, 3rd floor, 10215 – 112 St, Edmonton

The exploration of nature in art can take endless forms because nature provides us with such a vast wealth of inspiring phenomena. Art involving nature can be created simply to display the beauty of the natural world around us, to make scientific observations in an environment, or to open our minds to philosophical ideas about our own connection to nature and beyond. The philosopher Aristotle once wrote that: “Art not only imitates nature, but it also completes its deficiencies”. This can be interpreted as art not only recreating the natural world but also creating new ways in which to see it in another light.

The exhibition “From Nothing to All” presents a suite of powerful and exquisitely executed drawings by Helis Podnek, an Estonian-born and Edmonton-based visual artist and designer. Her compelling work captures the intricacy and beauty of the natural world and expresses our complex human connection to nature. As Podnek says: “I grew up in a small village called Veskitaguse which strands in the midst of the thick forests and soft meadows (…) I have seen and learned a lot about the life and the mind of the big cities, however, the bonds the humans share with nature is what I consider to be the core of my works. Having grown in the countryside, I greatly value the concepts of freedom, sincere caring, purity, and the unbending will.”

Podnek’s drawings also address – in a very subtle way – pressing environmental issues and topics about conservation, sustainability, preservation, biodiversity, and threatened habitats. Her work has the ability to interact with and educate the viewer about these issues, spreading awareness about such important topics. We feel an instinctual need to take care of the things we feel connected to and become more conscious of our true relationship with nature.  As the artist further explains: “My artwork is mixture of critical view of social, political, and cultural issues as well as simple joys and light in everyday light (…) While I portray actual plants and animals, they all stand for events, public and/or social figures. I use my art as a medium  of storytelling through traditional materials as graphite and pastel pencils on cotton paper.”

Podnek’s detailed pencil drawings capture both the spirit and appearance of her subjects.  Executed in a careful, realistic style, her pencil drawings are a striking reminder of just how powerful and emotive a pencil can be as a tool for creating fine art. Through her sophisticated blend of style and technique, Podnek has pushed the aspect of nature in art to a new height. As an artist, Helis Podnek radiates a strong sense of self and an attitude of communal obligation toward the natural world.


Artist’s Biography

Helis Podnek is an Estonian-born and Edmonton-based visual artist and a creative designer. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Product Design from the Estonia Academy of Arts in Tallinn. In 2005, Podnek was granted a Visual Art Internship at Ellen Frank Illumination Arts Foundation in East Hampton, NY and has been a recipient of several awards and commendations for her art and design in the USA and in Europe. In 2010, she studied multimedia design at NOMA Nordic Multimedia Academy in Kolding, Denmark. Podnek’s exquisitely executed works have been selected for numerous group and solo exhibitions in the USA.



Top Image: Tic Tock (Detail), 2020, pencil on paper
Courtesy of the Artist