Block title

Work Samples


#humblespirits, 2017, Acrylic and Instagram images on panel, 8 x 8"


Acrylic, Instagram Images on Panel, 16 x 16", 2017


Acrylic and Instagram Images on Panel, 16 x 16", 2017


digital collage, 2017


About Sylvie

Baltimore City

Sylvie van Helden (b. Montreal, 1974) is a mixed media artist with an MFA from the Mount Royal Graduate School at the Maryland Institute College of Art.     van Helden has exhibited her works at venues such as Maryland Art Place, Hillyer Art Space, The Autry Museum, and the Painting Center.  Her honors include a residency from the Teachers Institute of Contemporary Art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2010), a residency award from... 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. In this series, I chose twelve images for each work, with each image repeated into the symmetrical design of the Mandala from 4-32 times.

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.

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.