Helene Appel’s paintings deal in trompe l’oeil technique, but rather than the grand architectural versions of the Renaissance, or the convoluted visual games of seventeenth century Dutch painting, Appel instead focuses on the determinedly banal. The two paintings donated to the Williamson Art Gallery, Birkenhead both painstakingly and meticulously depict the fine details of sand and dishwater of their titles. On two similar sized canvases, both Sand and Dishwater show materials that don’t quite form a solid whole and are shown to be literally spilled across the linen canvas, heightening even more so this sense of immediacy and realness. She even captures the soapy rainbow reflection in the bubbles as they catch the light. In these two paintings Appel’s hyper-realism reveals itself as self-consciously painterly.
The Williamson’s art collection has been built over the last century with a strong emphasis on British artists, especially those with a regional connection. The subject matter of the paintings (sand and water) has a direct relationship to the local landscape – Wirral being a peninsula bounded on two sides by extensive beaches – and to the existing collection with its wide range of seascapes and coastal scenes. Helene Appel’s paintings offer a different approach to subjects favoured by so many local artists who feature in exhibitions both at the Williamson and other venues in the area.