Helen Smith // Blue Highway

Helen Smith

Helen Smith World Happiness Report from Wikipedia 2017 oil on canvas, 152.4 x 208.3cm
Helen Smith World Happiness Report from Wikipedia 2017 oil on canvas, 152.4 x 208.3cm

'Blue Highway' includes geometric abstract paintings that attempt to examine notions of order, disorder and harmony.

The two works from the Alighiero e Boetti from Wikipedia Series shown in this exhibition include World Happiness Report 2017 and Trump Travel Ban(s), executive orders 13769 and 13780, 2017.

The World Happiness Report was initiated in 2012 by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network and is collated yearly with criteria for assessing ‘national happiness’. This procedure involves reporting from experts in the fields of economics, psychology, survey analysis and national statistics to describe ‘measurements of well-being’.

'Each report is organised by chapters that delve deeper into issues relating to happiness, including mental illness, the objective benefits of happiness, the importance of ethics and policy implications ..' (1)

In 2017, the International rankings listed Norway in top position, followed by Demark, Iceland and Switzerland. Of the 155 countries ranked Syria was placed at 152 and the Central African Republic last at 155.

Trump Travel Ban(s), executive orders 13769 and 13780, 2017: Painting for this work began in February 2017 days after the Donald Trump's first executive order was announced. It was intended to be a record of the first executive order and surprisingly the painting was already obsolete by time of its completion, one month later. In March 2017 the second revised travel ban was announced in followed by a third in September 2017.

The Travel Ban is an executive order administered on a case by case basis and restricted admission of citizens from seven counties for 90 days and the order suspended the entry of Syrian refugees indefinitely. For the first order these countries included Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and subsequently more than 700 travellers were detained and up to 60,000 visas were ‘provisionally revoked’. The second order took Iraq off the initial list and the third (and most recent order) now places restrictions on visitors to the USA from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen and Somalia.

The Blue Highway series based on the name of a font developed Ray Larabie in the early 1990s. I was initially attracted to the even lines of this san-serif font and then to the name. The words conjure a poetic irony. An optimistic view of ideals relating to freedom and seemed somehow appropriate for the notion of a US Travel Ban and a global Happiness report sitting alongside paintings of banal, vacuous, geometric shapes, that also subscribe to a pragmatic set of criteria.
(1) Wikipedia https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Happiness_Report