The actress Hetty Baynes-Russell reveals a new side to her creativity in this new show at the Strand Gallery in Covent Garden. Thirty-five paintings take you through four decades of Hetty’s life on stage, in film, radio and television, in this humorous yet personal, autobiographical exhibition.
Throughout her childhood Hetty used the visual arts as an outlet for her emotional responses to growing up in the media spotlight. “I have always had a sketchbook with me, I’ve been painting and drawing since I was a child,”Hetty explains. She devised imaginary sides to her personality to measure her emotional well being. The two figures in the show’s title, ‘Betsy’ and ‘Blapsy’, were the characters Hetty identified herself with. They were her right side and her left side: Betsy (right) the extrovert: showy, sometimes taken to extremes, transforming into Blousey/Bluesey; and then Blapsy (left) the introvert – spirtual, intuitive and contemplative, reshaping herself into Blobby when troubled and depressed. Hetty continued to paint using these characters during both the brightest periods of life – career success, her love affair with Ken Russell, her sense of humour – and the most challenging periods of her adulthood too, including anorexia, experiencing negative press and bereavement.
After studying at Central St Martins and using computer-aided techniques, Hetty developed her pictorial language to express the many different, often contradictory forces that shape an artist’s life: “the voices that speak to us, the emotions and inspirations that pull us one way, then another” She said. Her art is intensely personal, each image telling its own story while still forming part of a narrative whole.
“Drawing these shapes and figures, giving them colour and space, expresses my life and the various turns it has taken: people and experiences, both internal and external, that have shaped it so far.”
The Strand Gallery, 14th-24th November
32 John Adam Street, London WC2N 6BP
Nearest Tube: Charing Cross
Gallery Website: www.thestrandgallery.co.uk