Book of Hours I & II is a project by artist Helen Gilbart, consisting of nearly 800 small, mixed media paintings on playing cards made between the first lockdown in March 2020 and June 2021. These images form two books that were produced entirely within the artists’ rural studio near the Suffolk coast.

The project forms a visual chronology and journey through the pandemic, utilising symbolism and global references to take us all the way from northern European Vanitas skulls, the hand axe discovered in Happisburgh, Norfolk in 2000, via the US presidential election, the newly discovered city of Aten in Egypt and much more. References are both personal and universal, and contextualised by wide ranging iconographic source materials. It’s a highly relatable work, as viewers are taken from the private and intimate environment of an artist’s thought process into the surrounding Suffolk countryside and beyond.

The Art Station has photographed and digitised Book of Hours I & II in order to present this very delicate work to the wider public. An associated film about the project has been made by Emily Richardson and an interactive microsite was launched enabling viewers to engage with the paintings in greater depth with additional notations, interviews and links to explore. The Art Station is working in partnership with Saxmundham Library to display the original books in the library, alongside a programme of events with the artist and the local community.

Limited edition art postcards of Helen’s work can also be purchased via our SHOP.


View the Books

The exhibition has now finished at The Art Station but the original books will be on display at Saxmundham Library until 27th May, please check their website here for opening times.

Scroll down further to find out more about free creative sessions we’re hosting at the Library this May.

The digitised version of the project is now available online –  view the individual cards, learn more about the background of the project and watch Emily Richardson’s documentary film – follow the link below to start exploring…

Book of Hours I & II Online

Creative Sessions this May

Book of Hours I & II: Explore & Draw

Explore the original Books with artist Helen Gilbart, and join a creative drawing session based around the works – a great opportunity to have a good look at the works in depth.

Friday 6th, 13th* and 20th May

11am – 1pm at Saxmundham Library

*Helen will not be there on the 13th, but the creative session will still go ahead with access to the Books

Free, all welcome and materials provided – booking via the link below.

Fun Drawing Sessions:  for ages 4 – 14

Drop in for a fun creative drawing session!

Wednesday 11th, 18th & 25th May

3.30 – 5.15pm at Saxmundham Library

Free, all welcome and materials provided – booking via the link below.

Creative Sessions Booking

Helen Gilbart

Based in East Suffolk, Helen Gilbart is particularly interested in accessing specific histories buried deep within the environment, whether urban or rural. Gilbart first studied Geography and Fine Art jointly and continues to embed herself directly within her subject wherever possible. Gilbart was artist in Residence in the Earth Sciences Department at the University of Cambridge between 1999 and 2006, working with Earth Scientists and outstanding palaeontology that offered clues to specific landscapes. In 2009 Gilbart was funded to work at the UNESCO Burgess Shale fossil beds in Field, British Columbia as part of Darwin200. Since 2010 archaeological themes have dominated, with projects triggered through the British Museum; working from their hidden collections and in the AHOB (Ancient Human Occupation of Britain) project in Happisburgh, Norfolk.

This project has been made possible by funding from the Suffolk County Council Covid Continuity Fund for Culture.