Catalogue Essays

Catalogue Introduction Extract. 2004

Catherine McWilliams by S.B.Kennedy

Every now and again one comes across an artist with a distinct outlook on the world, an outlook usually determined by background and experience of life, even eccentricity. Sometimes such artists present us with a quirky view of things and sometimes one senses in their work an undercurrent of this or that which defines their outlook. Catherine McWilliams is one such artist. Her work is always personal and often autobiographical. Yet despite these attributes, and a penetrating observation of the world around her, all of which can be disconcerting to a stranger, she has the ability to draw the viewer confidently into her world to share values that are at once personal and collective. It is the warmth of her personality that promotes this relationship, for the discovery that one might share her views is invariably taken by her as a surprise and a delight, but is never assumed.

Catherine McWilliams is a ‘painter’s painter’, that is, one for whom the actual process of painting-with gesturally expressive brushwork and an intuitive regard for the innate qualities of her medium- is of great importance. She brings a clear sense of deliberation to her work, which is always considered, never haphazard, and which records her everyday feelings and experiences. McWilliams always works directly from her subject, usually making sketches which are later developed into paintings in the studio. Amongst the artists she admires and is influenced by are Van Gogh, Frank Auerbach and Léon Kossoff, for the gestural nature of their handling of paint; Manet, for his use of colour; and Bonnard and Vuillard for their sense of pattern and colour. Her work can be divided into a number of periods, each with its own concerns and preoccupations. In general, however she likes to depict things, in her own words, as if rising ‘phoenix-like from the rubble of life’ to begin anew.

S.B. Kennedy