Showcasing underappreciated individuals for the past two decades, Hugo has been exploring the theme of South African labourers, people who, despite their outstanding economic contribution, are often overlooked by society. By portraying them in such formality, she encourages viewers to reconsider their status and importance. Hugo has always been interested in realist portraits that unveil a deeper understanding of people’s character.
Immersing herself in the setting Hugo takes photos of her chosen location, finding models within the area. She uses these photographs as reference material to initially sketch out a rough drawing with charcoal. Only after this first conceptualisation of the future artwork, she starts the process of drawing with pastel, giving her portraits a smooth texture. Colour, although carefully considered as part of the presentation of her work, becomes secondary to her emphasis on technical accuracy, strong draughtsmanship and detail in line and texture.
Helena Hugo has accumulated recognition around the world, her work displayed in both corporate and private collections. She has participated in numerous solo and group shows, some of which where she was a finalist includes: the BP Portrait Award, the Sasol New Signatures Competition, Johannesburg and Absa L'Atelier Competition, South Africa.