Sirens: Sophie von Hellermann and Anne Ryan

12 Nov 2022-16 Apr 2023


Sophie von Hellermann and Anne Ryan present Sirens, a new collaborative commission made for Turner Contemporary’s ground floor Sunley Gallery, which looks out over the North Sea. It will combine large-scale paintings by von Hellermann with Ryan’s three-dimensional painted ‘cutouts’.

Both artists live and work in Margate. The town, its energy and people, its vast seascapes and light, its social reality, culture and legends have fed into Sirens, which will evolve and change throughout the exhibition.

Sophie von Hellermann’s fluid and dreamlike paintings often draw on history, mythology and fable. She works rapidly using pure pigment and washes of colour, allowing the fleeting images in her mind to materialise on the canvas. For Sirens von Hellermann draw from the Margate coastline, reflecting the Sunley Gallery’s expansive sea view in her paintings. Swirling waters and events at sea, figures of peril and vigilance, jest and folly will appear across a changing series of large-scale canvases, which the artist will paint in the gallery.

Anne Ryan creates constructed and painted ‘cutouts’, which are intensely coloured, densely layered and full of movement. Figures appear and disappear in the positive and negative shapes of the interlocking surfaces: swimmers diving, raucous pub crowds and Mods and Rockers on the beach. For Sirens, Ryan has created works in high-density board and aluminium, drawing on a wide range of references and daily observations of the coastal environment, its light and weather, as well as Margate’s history of leisure and working-class culture. In tandem with von Hellermann, works will be removed, added and reconfigured throughout the exhibition.

Working in colour and figuration, both artists are highly intuitive, allowing themselves to become lost and absorbed in the process of making. Figures dance and move through their works. Images and cultural references, impressions and experiences find their way in through the physical act of making, of painting, cutting and layering.

Sirens has evolved as a loose dialogue between von Hellermann and Ryan, who have been friends and supporters of each other’s work since 2000. They have bounced sketches and ideas back and forth as they have developed the work, and this conversation will continue as the commission evolves throughout the duration of the exhibition.


Sirens: Sophie von Hellermann and Anne Ryan | Turner Contemporary
Turner Contemporary