A Develop Your Creative Practice project 

by Helen Thompson 

Funded by Arts Council England

Proprioception is the body’s ability to sense its position during movement and make intuitive adjustments to maintain balance and stability.

My fascination with the movement of the human form stems from the many years I spent in elite gymnastics. Negative experiences within the sport sadly stopped me from pursuing this interest in my art practice sooner. In 2020 the gymnastics world came under scrutiny, and the Whyte review was launched to investigate British Gymnastics. Although this was a difficult time, it paved the way for my project. The right time had finally arrived for me to explore the movement and beauty of gymnastics while acknowledging the darkness and negativity I’d experienced.

At the beginning of 2022, Arts Council England awarded me funding for my development project.

The focus of my project has been the dedicated and repetitive practice needed to perform elite-level acrobatic skills. My personal experience within elite gymnastics gives me a unique perspective that allows me to visually explore and express the physicality of dynamic and technical skills that require highly developed proprioception.

I’ve recently explored video-making with filmmaker Rachel Gibson, working with coaches and gymnasts at the City of Lancaster Gymnastics Club. We filmed footage for a short video that shows the links between acrobatic movement and my art practice.  

I’ve worked with artist and mentor Celia Burbush to develop my mark-making and drawing practice, experimenting with materials, collage and layering techniques. Most recently, I’ve collaborated with Northern Heights Dance to make contemporaneous drawings of aerialists performing live.

I scheduled this exhibition to take during my project as a way to review and assess my progress and development. It is also an opportunity to gather feedback from the audience. This will help to shape the remaining months of my development time and the future of my practice.