Supertrain Release: Helen Gerritzen and Kyla Fischer

IMG 5125 1

We’re very excited to share that the newest and final Supertrain temporary public art project, featuring Helen Gerritzen and Kyla Fischer, is out in the world! Keep an eye out for this lovely train around the city.

Helen Gerritzen plays with symbol and myth while using objects to evoke visual metaphors relating to the body. Her work questions the body’s long history as a repository of cultural, sexual, medical and religious meanings. Helen currently lives and works in Edmonton and has a MFA in Printmaking from the University of Alberta. 

Kyla Fischer is inspired by the beauty of nature, from the smallest detail to the larger expanse of the surrounding environment. Organic patterns and objects are abstracted through drawing, photography, fibre manipulation or printmaking processes. Kyla resides in Edmonton and received her MFA in Printmaking from the University of Alberta.

IMG 5137 1

We asked Helen and Kyla some questions about their Supertrain design. Read on below to learn more about their work:

What drawing process/programs did you use to create your artwork?

Our process often started with bringing harvests into our studios to photograph them, much like portraits. We also went directly into the garden, documenting the growth habits of the plants. From these, we would then create full scale drawings in multiple transparent layers that became the building blocks for the prints. We ultimately chose to use the technique of screen printing because it gave us the ability to use brilliant colours in the work. We played further with this process in the studio, even after these layers were printed. For example, by placing actual nasturtium flowers or seed pods on top of the printed images and photographing them together for the final image.

Some images, such as the native pollinators and fauna, Kyla printed in relief linocut. The distinctive mark making of the media contributes a graphic energy to the images that contrasts beautifully with the hand drawn flora.

A crucial part of the project was a residency in the SNAP studios and printshop, where we created all of our images. We also utilized the expertise of the SNAP staff in translating these prints into the images seen on the train design.

Could you explain how the work connects to the theme of Environmental Stewardship? What was your creative process in creating your designs for the LRT from that theme?

Our proposal celebrates the importance of Edmonton’s community gardens. Specifically, it honours our experiences of building connections to the land, environment, nature, and community. In turn, these connections encourage a sense of responsibility and respect for the complexity of ecosystems and how wildlife and plants support each other and support human life in an urban setting. 

As print artists we have more than two decades of professional practice in artmaking, but we also have a lifetime of experience tending gardens and producing food. Both of us participate in the Strathcona Rail Community Garden and each tend a 24’ by 10’ plot. We practice environmental stewardship through the planting and caretaking of the land and are rewarded with harvests, but also mental and physical well-being.

The goal of our project was to bring this experience of the garden to the riders on the train.

We were amazed at how the creative processes of gardening and art making intertwined in this project. The ability to go from garden to studio was so inspiring. As spring turned to summer and turned to fall, the garden gave us new ideas and directions to explore: colours, shapes, intensity, growth and decay are reflected in the work. It was also important to document the gardener’s activities throughout the year: tending, harvesting and collecting seed.

What are future plans or projects you’re working on? Where else can people find your work locally?

Helen is working on some large scale drawings for an upcoming exhibition. Sometime in the new year, she will teach a course at SNAP, drawing for screen printing. 

Kyla has fallen in love with Linocut relief and is planning on developing a new body of work in this medium.

The images from the Supertrain are available for sale. DM on Instagram helengerritzenstudio and kyla.fischer.printandtextile

Both Helen and Kyla also have prints available for purchase through SNAP Gallery, and have prints in the Alberta Foundation for the Arts collection. Helen has some work at the Art Gallery of Alberta Sales and Rental Gallery and her website is

Could you talk about the animal and plant motifs in the work?

All the images come directly from our gardens and the experiences we have within. We harvested or picked the squash, kohlrabi, garlic, nasturtiums, sunflowers, sweet peas, rudbeckia, strawberries and rhubarb. As gardeners, we are constantly researching new methods for environmentally sustainable growth in an urban setting. As artists, we researched and sourced images to talk about things like soil health, worms and important native pollinators, as well as other “participants” in the garden: birds and rabbits.

What does it mean to you to have your work out there in such a unique and publicly accessible way? 

Helen  We both have many years of experience exhibiting our artwork in galleries and other public venues, yet designing for the LRT made us think about how the public will access our artwork in such a different and wonderful way. I kept thinking of how families and specifically children would interact with and interpret the images, allowing them to connect to nature within the city as we do. And, through the work, we were very interested in telling our stories of creation—as both gardeners and artists.

Kyla  When creating artwork for such a unique space, a lot of interesting questions arise. How will the public see this particular image: looking up? looking down? being surrounded? The public will experience the work within an ordinary part of their day; getting from one place to another. We had the opportunity to make this ordinary aspect of life a little more extraordinary.

Tell us about your experience collaborating together on this project. Do you have any plans for future collaborations? 

Helen  When the call for the Supertrain came out, I immediately thought of Kyla as a collaborator. Plus, I just couldn’t conceive of creating a project all about community gardens—alone. Kyla and I are neighbours in the Strathcona Rail Community Garden and both are print artists, so it just seemed perfect! 

What we have both agreed upon, the collaboration has been so successful and enriching, we want to continue expanding the scope of the work and are looking for future opportunities. 

Kyla  This collaboration with Helen has been eye opening and so rewarding. Discussions regarding particular imagery often made for more elevated decisions and work that has both our fingerprints on it. I have never experienced anything like it.