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Work Samples


Acrylic, colored pencil and collage on paper, 18 x 18" 2020


Acrylic, colored pencil and collage on paper, 11 x 9", 2021


detail of untitled


Acrylic, colored pencil and collage on paper, 17 x 14", 2021


About Sylvie

Baltimore City

Sylvie van Helden  began her art career copying book covers in the basement of her parents home in Indiana at the age of 7.  Her mom thought her drawings were decent and enrolled her in some art classes through the community art association.  Fast forward to high school and college, where she buried her head in books and forgot art for many years.  After graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in Biology, she spent a year in a research lab and took night... more


Hashtag Mandalas

As a mixed-media artist with a background in science and an interest in spirituality, I explore ways with which we respond to and represent our environments and experiences. The Hashtag Mandalas investigate how people define their experiences on the social media site Instagram.

My multilayered collaged paintings cull images sourced from hashtag searches on Instagram and combine them into the formal structure of a Mandala, a symbol representing the universe in Hinduism and Buddhism. My hashtag searches yielded a plethora of responses, with some terms generating as many as 60,000+ images. My normal mode of working spontaneously with washes of paint and collage was slowed by a need to consider image selection, placement, repetition and the overall design of the Mandalas.

Mandalas function not only as representations of the world at large, but as tools for spiritual guidance. As meditation aids, they are points on which to focus attention. My work aims to opens a window into the immediacy and pervasiveness of social media as a form of communication and documentation, whereby religious notions like devotion and purification have taken on new meanings.

Hashtag Mandalas Continued

The Legend of the Koi

According to the tale, a school containing thousands of of golden koi swam up the Yellow River. The fish gained strength by swimming against the current. At one point, they reach a waterfall and the majority became discouraged. They turned back finding it much easier go with the flow of the river. 360 Koi refused to give up. Leaping from the depths of the river, they flung their bodies into the air repeatedly, only to fall back into the water. Their movements attracted the attention of malicious demons who laughed at their efforts and raised the height of the falls. The Koi were undeterred. For 100 years, they continued on. At last, one heroic Koi leaped and reached the top of the falls. For his persistence, the Gods transformed him into a dragon.

The falls have become known as the Dragon's Gate, and for their perseverance, Koi have become symbolic of overcoming adversity and fulfilling one's destiny. I kept this story in the forefront of my mind as I worked on this series and came to terms with the loss of a family member.

Collages 2014-2017

Small collages done on paper. Some were kept as is, and others were reworked digitally.

Rotation Series

Borrowing from the traditions of abstract painting and collage, this series examines the potentiality of a state of groundlessness. Shapes from scientific diagrams can be found intermixed with spontaneous splashes of paint and flourishes of Asian ornamentation forming a hybrid that references a balance between structure and chaos. The aesthetic of Japanese woodblock prints permeates the work; bright colors, textural nuances, and the juxtaposition of pattern next to pattern are used in compositions that invoke movements like spinning, falling and floating. Instead of being bound by an anchor point, these works suggest the freedom and possibility that can come from movement and seek to echo the cyclical nature of the world.

acrylic, ink and collage on paper

Connect with Sylvie

Sylvie's Curated Collection

This artist has not yet created a curated collection.