Catherine Carter

Main Image.

As a photographer and installation artist, I’m excited about entering the Parkin Drawing Prize for the first time, both because of its importance in the NZ art scene, but also because of the value of drawing a the very centre of the visual arts, and this prize’s role in cherishing diversity and innovation in this form.


With a professional art practice centred on abstraction of natural forms and the flow of energy in ecological processes, much of my work is created from photographs in or around water. Some of these works include digital montaging which uses a cloning tool to draw part of one image into another to play with ideas of time spent in the water. In my Seaside series, the same people are repeated in the same scene in different positions of activity in the water. In other works like White Water Butterfly, four photos are manually drawn together in Photoshop to produce work that explores ideas of transformation.


In my sculptural and installation work, I also seek to experiment more generally with liquids, light and flow. My entry this year arose from a series of work called Light Drawings, which takes its inspiration from the Mili-Picasso collaboration in which Picasso’s signature, drawn in light, is recorded on film by Mili as the only remaining trace of the action (Mili 1970, p15).


In ‘Liquid Trace 1’, I have played light on the surface of thick, black molasses and installed a cotton cloth to capture the light reflected from this surface. I have then drawn my signature through the molasses and used the camera to record moments in time as this single trace, in slow motion, is ‘erased’ as the liquid molasses returns to its cohesive smooth inverted pool.


The resulting web of movement from this act upon the cohesive liquid has created a 3Dimensional web of lines ‘drawn’ from the ‘disappearing signature’, formed by the re-forming liquid and the gridded lines of the cotton capturing the reflected light. I used molasses as a substitute for oil, not wishing to use a pollutant or fossil fuel in the work, but nonetheless considering the ways in which our disregard for environmental consequences is challenging and changing our identities.


The trace indicates the presence of the artist and thereby positions the artist within the work. However, the characteristics of the materials seek to erase the artist’s signature, and instead reassert their own forms, in the same way, that given space and time nature seeks to reclaim to some extent that which has been taken or polluted by humanity. The resulting absence of the trace has given way to ephemeral lines of reflected light and mechanical grids of thread.


The work is part of my desire to give voice to ecologies under pressure, in particular, bodies of water, as we enter the Anthropocene. We all have a critical connection to water, and the exploration of both the materiality of water and our relationship with water is at the core of my work. 


I never feel happier or more connected to the universe and nature than when I am on in or near the sea or river and this connectedness feeds the inspiration for my art practice. Also as a New Zealander I feel my identity is tied up in Aotearoa‘s identity as an ecologically- isolated territory discovered by ocean-borne navigators who looked to the skies and ocean currents to locate themselves.


My art practice has incorporated working with photography, video, cast glass sculpting and installation. For many years I combined art with commercial life and family life, establishing a business called the Fabulous Bureau of Illustrators, or FBI, NZ’s first illustration agency, as well as working in film, television and advertising in Art Direction, properties and set design.  A little over ten years ago, I decided to move full time into fine art as a profession and returned to AUT University to complete a Masters in Art and Design where I majored in photography, and this remains central to my practice.  I was privileged to be a finalist in the Wallace Art Awards in 2014 and 2016, and a finalist in the HeadOn Portrait Prize at the HeadOn Photography awards in 2015 and 2016, and this year held a solo show in Sydney as part of the Head On Photography Festival in May.


For the recent Auckland Photography Festival, I curated a group show at Arthaus Gallery in Orakei, Open Waters, featuring my own work along with artists Cao Xun, Alex Plumb, Victor Sarah and Trish Campbell, and I am also curating a group show at Studio 541 in Mt Eden for Art Week in October. Having shown work in New Zealand, Australia, the USA and France, I’m delighted to be part of a show just opened in Szczecin, Poland, curated by Rob Garrett as part of ‘Breathtaking: inSPIRACJE 12’.

Catherine Carter

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