What do you do?
It’s probably fair to say I am an entrenched studio-based painter. The studio is more than a physical location, it has its own dimension — it’s a realm, a world, a rabbit hole 100% dictated by my own personality, needs and requirements. The clutter and the dirty floor are part of the working process. It’s important to have layers to sort through. All those piles are critical.
What could you imagine doing if you didn’t do what you do?
I’m an inherent entrepreneur. Being an artist is entrepreneurial — it’s perfect for me. The worst job I ever had was being sent to Mt Wellington to do an inventory in a sports factory. I had to count all the golf balls. My eyes glazed over and I thought I’m going to cheat, I’m going to guess. The rote has no interest to me. The sense of adventure and spontaneity of the studio is what it’s all about.
What images are pinned to your studio wall?
Betty Woodman, Jules Olitski, Milton Avery.
Who is your ideal studio buddy?
Key to my practice is knowing when to down tools. Minty the Dachshund is my ideal sidekick because she facilitates my daily routine of walking down K-Rd and musing on my painting.
What are you listening to?
Getty podcasts on women artists. In season one, Helen Molesworth interviews radical women artists . . . Alice Neel, Lee Krasner (she also had a Dachshund), Betye Saar, Helen Frankenthaler, Yoko Ono, Eva Hesse.
What are you reading?
A fantastic biography of Agnes Martin by Nancy Princenthal
What did you learn at art school?
I self-sabotaged and derailed myself completely by taking it so seriously. I took on a form of conceptual art making that didn’t suit me in the least. When I was in first year I had Ian Jervis. Ian said, Catherine we could put you in a room and lock the door and you would pile up paintings around you. Production is not your problem! He was trying to get me to figure out the meaning behind the making. He knew I had an unstoppable desire to make and to paint — but working out how took years.
Julian Dashper taught me in second year when I was looking at Gunter Forg and Albert Tucker. Julian came along and said, what you need to realise is Gunter Forg came out of Germany and WWII. His work is social commentary, it’s not about surfaces. I was crushed. I’m a white middle class girl from Onehunga. I’m not haunted. I didn’t have any angst or grist for the mill. That’s when I decided to start investigating feminist makers like Rosemarie Trockel.
I nearly failed fourth year. Richard Fahey told me he was trying to jilt me out of the work I was doing. “Cat you need to have a gin and tonic and reflect on what you are doing.” He was desperately wanting me to chill out and enjoy myself and be 23 for god’s sake.
I went to Melbourne to pursue a career as a curator. I met a real working painter who inspired me to pursue what I really wanted to do. I didn’t want to give up on being an artist. I came back to Auckland, got a studio behind Miss Crabb’s store on K-Rd, made stretchers and started painting kitschy roses in pink — a colour symbolic of healing and getting back my mojo. I had a show at Miss Crabb. The paintings all sold. They’re going to be a total embarrassment to me in the future.
I got it together by moving into the Midas Car Care Studio on Gt North Rd with other established artists. I ditched the flowers and started doggedly working on abstract formal concerns — all those rudimentary ideas that Mary Heilman and Charline von Heyl and any painter worth their salt would need to work out. This was how I kicked off basically.
My show Impromptu Crabapple at Anna Miles Gallery!