David Gates and Helen Carnac


David Gates and Helen Carnac, who work in wood and vitreous enamel respectively, are both drawn to industrial architecture and agricultural infrastructure. Their riverside studio is close to London’s remaining Thames-side industries, including storage depots, jetties and wharves, grain silos, coastal defences, radio towers, pylons, and conveyors of the Tate Lyle factory. The artists find a peculiar rightness to many of these structures related to their expediency, function, and immediacy; the buildings’ rationality and utility generate a sculptural and aesthetic integrity. David and Helen’s cabinets are never ‘of’ a particular structure or building, although some are more strongly related to particular sites. However, they all embrace an overall aesthetic and approach that emerges from observation, formal research, photography, and drawing.


The artists’ recent signature works are centred on the collecting cabinet; spaces, interiors, ledges, and shelves reveal themselves through doors, tambours, drawers, and fall-flaps, suggesting places to store and display objects. Intricately textured vitreous enamel steel plates create contrasting surface planes, while simultaneously exploiting liminal spaces within the cabinet structure. Eschewing a definitive ‘front’, the cabinets’ multiple elevations enact a strategy of slowing down; of taking time to engage with a piece to explore the individual elements and consider the part they take in the overall form.


David’s work is exhibited and collected internationally. Public collections include the Nasjonalmuseet for Kunst Arkitekturog Design, Norway and the Crafts Council in the UK. In 2019, he won the Bespoke Category of the UK Wood Awards. He received the Gold Award at the Cheongju Biennale, South Korea in 2015 and was a winner of the Jerwood Contemporary Makers 2010. David holds a PhD by thesis from Kings College London. Helen’s work is held in both national and international collections, including the Racine Art Museum, USA. She has taught extensively in the UK and USA including Virginia Commonwealth University and Penland Mountain School, North Carolina.

Installation shots