CATHERINE FLEMING may only be 18 years old, but already she has had three exhibitions, and her fourth, currently running in the Providence Market Kitchen on St Augustine Street, reveals her increasingly bold use of colour and abstraction.
“If I had a title for it, it would be ‘Eclectic’,” Catherine laughs, as the paintings on display range from figurative to landscapes to abstract in a variety of moods and colours. “I’m young, so I’m still developing, and I love to try new things and experiment.”
Painting and drawing have been a passion for the An Spidéal born woman since childhood, and Catherine’s attributes this interest to her aunt Rhoina Fleming.
“When I was a kid she encouraged me to paint and draw,” she says. “She gave me these huge big sheets of crepe type paper and I’d go mental coming up with the daftest stuff! I liked drawing hands. I couldn’t grasp the concept that we could only have four fingers and a thumb, so I’d draw hands with 20 fingers! I loved that fantasy type drawing and as she got me to draw so much I realised I was good at it.”
Catherine’s talents were further encouraged at school, although she admits to being “an art teacher’s nightmare”. “I’m very stubborn and not able to take direction,” she says.
Catherine’s work straddles the line between the figurative and the abstract - human forms dissolve into swirls and strokes of colour; land, sea and sky become forms hinted at and implied, rather than stated outright in her atmospheric landscapes. It leaves the viewer scope to read their own meanings into the paintings, or simply admire the energy of their colours.
“I really got into portraiture for a long time, and the technical side of drawing,” Catherine says. “I would have to have every detail of the face in there. I would make grids so I would have everything absolutely correct. Then I started messing around with paints and adding colours and waiting to make pictures more colourful, and from that the works started to get more abstract.”
Would she look towards any artists in particular as role models?
“I never really look at other artists,” she says. “That’s not to say I’m not influenced by others, that would be impossible, but it’s not a conscious thing. That said, I quite like Jack B Yeats. I love his painting ‘For The Road’. When I first started doing these it while I was making this picture of a woman and instead of using normal colours, I started using all these crazy colours.”
Who says influences must be derived from the works of other artists? Inspiration can
come from anything and anywhere - from personal experiences, from music, from books.
For Catherine, these latter three have the most potent effect on her art.
“Music would be one of my main influences,” declares Catherine, who also plays guitar and drums. Not surprisingly a number of works in the exhibition are her own personal responses to favourite songs.
Pain and Woe featuring an isolated, greyish figure, crouching amid blackness, save for a slim shaft of light, takes its title from The Who’s ‘Behind Blue Eyes’. “I love that song,” says Catherine. “I really like the lyrics. It tells the tale of a someone who could be a good person, but they feel bad and wrong, and there is a vulnerability to them as well, and that’s what I wanted to capture.”
Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’, Roger Water’s poignant ode to his estranged bandmate Syd Barrett, inspired Two Lost Souls, where the abstracted outline of a woman gazes away from the viewer into an uncertain distance.
“I’ve always had an interest in doing a painting from that song,” she says. I got a photo of a woman and I worked with that. The song is about the Floyd missing Syd and it reminded me of a friend I had once known and how I missed him. That also inspired the painting ‘Tiny Little Room Turns Blue’, which comes for a dream I had about waiting for my friend, but they never showed up.”
Sea and sand
Growing up along the coast, and with a father who loves sailing, it is not surprising that Catherine’s atmospheric landscapes concern beaches and the sea, often with the tiny form of a boat in the distance. “My dad has a boat and we’re always on the sea, fishing,” says Catherine. “I like the look of those sailing yachts, they’re like Galway hookers.”
The sea also features in one of the exhibitions most arresting works - On The Horizon - where a small girl stands on the edge of the incoming tide, gazing out to the horizon. Depicted only in black and white, the stark colours add to the sense of mystery and foreboding.
“One of my favourite books as a child was The Whales’ Song by Dylan Sheldon,” says Catherine. “It’s just a very short book, about a little girl who goes to beach at night so she can hear the whales sing. It’s really lovely but also very dark.”
Yet she is adamant that despite her own explanations of the paintings, the overall she does not concern herself with constructing any grand of deep meanings to them. “I like people to read their own meanings into them,” she says.
At 18, Catherine is on the cusp of beginning to develop her own particular style. When asked how she thinks her art will develop into the future, the reply is instant and definite: “Abstract”.
“If I’m to do a themed exhibition, it will be abstract,” she says. “It’s strange because I used be so into highly detailed, realistic drawing, and I couldn’t get abstract art at all. I would just see it as an artist putting lines on a canvas and think ‘What’s the point? Why would you bother doing that?’ But having been experimenting with colours and paints, I’ve come to see how you can be really experimental with it and how it leaves you more free to do what you want.”
Catherine’s exhibition at the Providence Market Kitchen runs until March 29.