Catalogue Essays

Pandora's Box

Pandora’s Box series of paintings 1983/’84

In 1983 I was invited to participate in an exhibition entitled Pandora’s Box.
32 artists were asked to reinterpret the myth of Pandora which described her
as a mischievous being, who allowed all the miseries of the world to escape from a box leaving only hope trapped inside.
I saw Pandora as the personification of Hope while ‘our troubles’ represented ‘the woes and miseries of the world’.
The following paintings reflect this re-interpretation of the myth

In ‘Belfast Girl 1983’ She emerges, like a phoenix, from the smouldering debris of Belfast

Woman with Peace Line1983 shows Pandora woven with bright hopeful colours which break away into the background of camouflaged Cave Hill

Girl with Birds and Dying Flowers 1983 has the youthful, innocent Pandora holding the box of hope whilst being threatened by menacing birds and decaying flowers

In Irish Landscape1 , Pandora becomes part of the hopeful rural landscape

Irish Landscape 2 and Woman with Security Barrier have Pandora trapped in the greyness and violence of Belfast but her colours link with a nearby landscape

In the 1980s Belfast was still a grim and troubled city but with a beautiful natural setting. ‘Lying at the estuary of the river Lagan, it is dominated to the north and west by Cave Hill, Divis and Black Mountain and to the South it stretches into drumlin country. ….. the Irish landscape is present in….my work but an important element…is the human form.¹ So at that time in the 80s, with this group of Pandora’s Box paintings, I looked to the future with hope

In the introduction to the catalogue ‘A Fresh Look’ Denise Hooker says:
‘Catherine McWilliams’ brightly coloured figure of Pandora in Woman with Peace Line relates directly to her hope for the end of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland’²

¹ Catherine McWilliams’ part of statement: Pandora’s Box catalogue
² Denise Hooker ‘A Fresh Look’ Introduction to catalogue ‘Pandora’s Box’ published 1984 by Womens Images and Rochdale Art Gallery. Produced and distributed for Womans Images by Trefoil Books