There’s a certain kind of view that seems to me to resonate. It’s to do with time of day, and the air against your skin, but also the stillness that seems to resonate from a very tightly wound place at the heart of the scene.
Certain artists have the power to capture that sensation – set it on paper or canvas or board so you can stare at it whenever you need to sink into a moment’s stillness, then emerge and carry on.
It’s a power that Catherine Knight’s works hold, not least her stunning series of Hrisey paintings completed while on a residency in Iceland.
“I have always loved painting and looking at paintings,” she says. “I read the biographical details of artists who I admired and try to work out how I could do what they have done, in particular, the lives of female artists. I am currently reading the biography of Tove Jansson and am inspired by her novels and the landscapes in which they are set. I read whenever I can and think that the escapism of a novel mirrors that of painting.”
It’s an interesting thought, but gaze at any of her works and you can lose yourself in it, if only for a few seconds.
In pursuit of this goal, Catherine studied Fine Art to Masters level at Bath Spa University, “which honed my practice,” and since then has had a studio at BV Studios in Bristol. “I work alongside other painters and support my practice with part-time teaching. Seeing other artists work always inspires me and drives me on, making me want to continue painting.”
Catherine draws inspiration from old family photographs, “in particular those taken by my paternal Grandmother. She was born in 1907 in Germany and led a fascinating life, studying zoology in Munich in the 1930s before having to flee to Glasgow after marrying my grandfather, a Jewish man. She photographed the landscapes of her youth in Germany and later Scotland as well as interiors and the people in her life. I am drawn to the nostalgia and longing present in the images and the sense of leaving something behind.”
These photos have led to paintings such as Wanderer, which makes me think of the slightly frightening, entrancing fairytales I loved as a child.
Catherine’s residency in Iceland was the culmination of years of daydreams for the artist. “I imagined small houses in vast, open landscapes,” she says. “I applied for many residencies and finally got to go the Old School Arthouse in December 2013 to the island of Hrisey. A tiny tear-drop shaped island off the north coast of Iceland, Hrisey lived up to all my expectations and more.”
She says that the tiny amount of light present each day had a huge impact on the work she came up with there. “It created a constantly changing light and the snowy landscapes were stunning. I took thousands of photos and have been making work based on them ever since. They have a similar feel to my previous work but also present new ideas.”
After working from black and white photographs and “inventing the colour”, Iceland’s dramatic saturated hues presented Catherine with the opportunity to challenge herself in new ways. “Previously I had been using the black and white photo as a kind of starting point whereas the Iceland work was a more direct translation into paint. On the island, I was drawn to the contrast between the strange, shifting natural light and the cosy, artificial lights of the dwellings.”
Colour, she says, remains an enduring fascination in her work. “It’s the most exciting thing – as an artist I want the colours in my paintings to surprise and excite as well as evoke certain feelings. I use it in an instinctive way that’s second nature to me.”
She adds: “Someone hanging my work on their wall and enjoying it for years to come is very satisfying and I like the idea of my work ending up in lots of different places, being part of people’s lives, in a small way. I hope to paint until I am 100 years old!”
Find more examples of Catherine’s work and information about upcoming exhibitions at www.catherineknight.com.
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