Painting is a physical and decisive act: a mark initiating a world, forcing a form into existence, drawing ephemeral fragments from the imagination into physical being. Paint builds – it structures and shapes, leaving a pigment deposit on paper and canvas; allowing formless things to become concrete, drawing the invisible into perceivable being. But this is not what we encounter in Kate Walters’ Shetland watercolours. These are not paintings that build form, but vehicles through which we are pulled into formlessness; encounters with the ephemeral rather than the physical, a breath of pigment deposited onto paper that suggests figures and forms without defining their solid presence. Figures float into being, still tethered into the void, their weightless form a hesitant proposition. The origin of these tentative creatures was a dream granted to Walters when she was recently staying on Shetland; a vision of her foetal form cast adrift in a disembodied uterus, its unbounded body free of physical constraints, floating in interconnected communion with the universe. It is perhaps unsurprising that such a dream should have come on Shetland, a thin space where physical boundaries are dissolved in the constant ebb and flow that blends sea and shore in a swirling, unresolved flux. As she watched seals blur the line between sea and air and terns draw soaring patterns in the air before plunging into crystalline waters, Walters herself became a shamanic hollow bone, a conduit between the physical and immaterial realms. In her sketches she is seal, fulmar, tern and foetus, a boundary crosser, diving into a cosmic space before birth and after death where everything is held in unresolved, undifferentiated potential. Revd. Dr. Richard Davey, September 2017
A Quiet Ecstasy “…a world in which every woman is the presiding genius of her own body,” Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born
These images by Kate Walters are immediately arresting in their simplicity and power. They seem to float, as if still in amniotic suspension - the world imbued with the infinite potential of new life. In these moments of metamorphic meeting, forms bond with the inevitable abandon of cells.
In these watercolours, they come into being by means of a felicitous emergence through technique of genuinely deep meaning; that is, the flow of the paint is as much followed as directed, the image a result of fluid, of absorption, of tension and viscosity, observed until the moment of birth, then gently held.
At this level, the interconnectedness of living beings appears as a given, clear, a matter of course. Procreation through the meeting of bodies is touching in all senses, and worlds away from the baggage with which struggling humanity weighs it down. I would call it innocence, except that it is deeply knowing. Perhaps this wisdom is the innocence of the fully grown, like Baudelaire’s willed return to childhood through desire.
Time in these works is thus quite other than linear or even cyclical. It just is. I find that when I have been looking at them, they resolve into a simultaneous continuity, such as occurs in dreams, rather than a sequence. They are all one.
Sanguine would seem to be their only possible colour, and white space the only possible ground; the colours of blood. And sunrise. Professor Penny Florence, September 2017
A thigh meshed in nylon, a pair of red curtains bleeding light, a coat hanger behind a door. Julia Maddison’s work is so elegantly explicit in a fine balance that draws on objects and images that may sit or stand or lie in plain sight, but pierce the skin and twist the root just where purity and sin bargain for sanity.
Across the landing, through the door float memories scattered and scrawled, the wardrobe ajar, streetlight through lace spattering the wall. In the curious elipse the artist has sliced in the fabric of time and place, where recollections the work drew to the surface were not necessarily beyond my control, my anger was both a pleasure to admit and a relief to have done with. Turn a corner, seeping light from watered bulbs, shadows bloom Infirmary red, the blossom of loss. Her lace, wire, cage, photographs, implements that desire a future are things arranged that suggest collective meaning, and though transitory, are solid history by which we negotiate the rumours that trouble our sleep. By which we study what is absent. By which we learn we can forget only what we know. Learn that we are not a property of pain, and that thought and memory are not the same. This space is a prism, of things as perhaps a directory of inner life, ferrying forms of feeling to and from the artists consciousness, they tell a story, different for you as for me, which though brand new, has waited decades to be told. Objects as gestures. An accordion of fear. Magical thinking is parallel to logical thinking, contemporaneous, both are true, these things contain the past and yet are projects for the future.
Julia’s objects and images unravel my minds technology, and deeper memories emerge. The patterns she presents are not obscure and obsolete, they are not discrete. The coat hanger has carried its histories of closet secrecy and traumatised darkness, and clothes as deceit and ruse, into the twenty first century on bent wire more pure and elegant than an algorithm, jangling automatically in the night, the very thought of which, cold against the skin, weaponised with spite, the data file cannot begin to fortell or describe. This domain of simple things contains the complex possibility that we harbour forms that are not our own; fragments, scruples, traits, both personal and cultural, historic and mythological, that appear and disappear through generations, in gestures and contradictions that govern our lives and bring us inexplicable anxiety.
Julia Maddison’s work is a drawing together of the threads and shapes that have found form through her accrued materials and ontologial indices. Her shaping of thought configures a lexicon where each thing in turn, each object, stitch, each shade, of colour or memory is a cipher too, a lantern shaft onto latent carried truths. By no means a grimoire, Maddison takes the needle of her artists eye and runs it through a series of familiar satellites and captured memories past and present, and weaves them into a tangible wraithe of time that might otherwise have slipped through our fingers, and which we may crumble to dust should we desire. Julian Firth, September 2017