Helen Downie is a London based self-taught artist working under the moniker of Unskilled Worker.
Sharing her work online, Downie was discovered by the celebrated photographer Nick Knight, who commissioned her in 2014 to create a series of portraits. Knight described the artist’s work as “some of the most intensively beautiful and poetic painting I have come across.” Her collaborations with Knight attracted a great deal of interest, and in 2015 the artist was commissioned by the Italian fashion house Gucci to make a series of portraits for exhibition at the Minsheng Art Museum in Shanghai.
In 2016, a specially commissioned portrait by the artist was featured as a limited-edition cover of Bazaar Art alongside six leading contemporary female artists, including Etel Adnan, Rachel Feinstein, Sarah Morris, Cornelia Parker, Celia Paul and Taryn Simon. In 2017, Gucci continued its collaboration with the artist by launching a collection featuring her artwork.
In 2019, Downie featured in a unique exhibition, called ‘One Small Step’ featuring 12 leading artists – in-line with the 12 men who have walked on the moon since 1969 – who each transformed an astronaut helmet into a work of art. The exhibition, installed for a month at The Crossing in London and toured as the headline feature of The Other Art Fair in London (July 2019) Los Angeles and Dallas (September 2019). Participating artists included Anish Kapoor, Dan Baldwin and Chris Levine. Later in the same year, Downie exhibited at D Museum in Seoul and the Museo ABC de Dibujo e Ilustración in Madrid.
Drawing upon a broad spectrum of influences, Downie’s paintings are unique and instantly recognisable. Highly atmospheric and infused with a dreamy childlike innocence, the artist’s distinctive style of painting has attracted both critical acclaim and a large audience worldwide. Her work has appeared in many international publications, including Artnet, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Dazed, Harper’s Bazaar, i-D, and China’s Art Trade Journal. AnOther Magazine wrote of the artist “ Downie’s paintings depict fantastical scenes; she draws references from Tudor and Renaissance imagery, lending a lavishness to her characters so that they both dominate the canvas and appear simultaneously confined within their frames.”
Since 2016 the artist’s work has supported charities such as The Shuktara Trust, ISTANBUL 74’s work with Maya Foundation’s Project Lift; a charity project that rehabilitates traumatised children through art therapy; Women for Women International; Shape Arts, a disability-led arts organisation that is committed to end the marginalisation of disabled people in the arts; MAG (Mines Advisory Group) whose mission is to clear landmines and unexploded bombs from conflict-affected communities; Hospital Rooms, an arts and mental health charity that commissions artworks for NHS mental health inpatient units across the UK; The Big Issue, a street newspaper that supports the homeless, the vulnerably housed and the poor and Secret 7” in support of ‘Help Refugees’ a UK-based non-governmental NGO which provides humanitarian aid to, and advocacy for, refugees around the world.
The artist’s paintings are collected nationally and internationally and have been exhibited at galleries across the world including London, Hong Kong, Seoul, Madrid, Tokyo and Shanghai.
New York Times
Art Trade Journal China
The Times and The Sunday Times
i –D Magazine
Modern Weekly China
Business of Fashion: BoF
A Magazine Curated By
South China Morning Post