Water can be found in every painting by Helen Christophidis, even though she can’t say what is the symbolism hidden behind this recurring motif. She guesses it might be because she’s an islander, even more so – Cretan.

Helen Christophidis, a professional artist and printmaker who has exhibited successfully in New York, and had a number of solo exhibitions in London (1979-1983), is exhibiting in Hawthorn studio and gallery in Melbourne, from 6 to 22 December. This will be the artist’s first solo exhibition, after nine years long break, due to caring for her partner when he was stricken with a debilitating illness that required full-time care.

During this time, Christophidis was teaching art, and the paintings were accumulating in her studio. “It was hard. I was painting all the time, but you get a sort of stale painting on your own, so I think I found it a challenge to work for an audience rather than for myself, and to work to a date. It is stressful, but to see all the work together in an exhibition space is something that I really enjoy.

It means a lot to see whether your work can stand up on its own, what are its weaknesses. I don’t paint for an audience, however to have an audience in mind is challenging. I paint what I want, what I have chosen, rather than some elegant and popular topics,” Helen tells Neos Kosmos. After finishing a degree in fine arts and a number of years of teaching experience, Greek Australian Helen Christophidis has finished her postgraduate degree in printmaking at the Central School of Art and Design in London.

As she says, her parents were artistic people themselves, so she was always encouraged to follow the path of an artist. After only several years she spent in England, the Leeds Art gallery still holds a number of Christophidis’ prints. Christophidis’ exhibition in Hawthorn studio and gallery will feature ten large oils on linen, just few of the artworks that have been accumulating in Helen’s studio during nine years long break.

Helen’s landscapes and seascapes portray different characters, mainly pelicans, but also everything that celebrates her perpetual inspiration – water. She captures their movement, and reflections of water. As she says, she finds pelicans “balky” and “not very aesthetic”, but at the same time challenging for her landscape, that she usually devotes the linen to.

“I think they are visually challenging because they are big. When they’re still, they’re very still – and when they move, they are big and bulky, and the patterns they create are amazing,” Christophidis says.

The artworks presented for her long awaited solo exhibition explore “a memory of place”, and take the viewer somewhere beautiful and peaceful. “It’s places I love being in, and the feelings and memories that have accumulated from being there”, places that have helped Helen cope with life’s challenges in previous ten years.

“I’ve been always painting water. Maybe because I’m an islander – I love the reflections of water. I saw pelicans as something different, challenging, maybe a bit quirky… there is no symbolism behind it, just an inspiration. We have a holiday house at Mornington Peninsula, and especially when my husband was very ill, we would spend a lot of time by the water. There were a lot of pelicans there… I paint what I see in front of me, environment, spaces where I love to be.”

Christophidis hopes that her first solo exhibition after a long break will be her true come back. “I hope my work to have strength and to stand on its own. I hope my paintings reach out to people.”

The exhibition of Helen Christophidis’ oil on linen, Memory of Place, takes place at Hawthorn studio&gallery, from Thursday, 6 December to Saturday, 22 December (Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 11:00 am – 5:00 pm, Sundays 12:00 – 4:00 pm).