Cathy Tuato'o Ross


A number of years ago, I contributed to a colleague’s project about big ideas that were never realised as artworks. She gathered our elaborate plans and condensed them to business-card scale, produced them in bulk and distributed them freely. Perhaps it was a nod to Ilya and Emilia Kabakov’s “Museum of unrealised projects”? In any case, her project allowed the invited artists and designers to indulge their ideas while acknowledging how much art never gets made.

If I didn’t draw, my pie graph of intention, research and production would have production barely holding its own as a sharp bright sliver in an otherwise unbroken circle. But I do draw, and that resets the balance somewhat. I find that drawing is a bit like walking - something that is generally better to do than not do. Both activities offer time and perfect conditions for letting thoughts wander, both involve making lines. Richard Long’s walks were manifested into records of activity/impact in various forms, mine are not. But walking in the bush near my home, I occasionally make grand connections between words I have read and images I have seen and the daily reality of my life.

I am a distracted, occasionally-employed academic, artist and mother of four very active girls. I remember or imagine monuments and site-specific installations. I see clothes-drying racks and half-planted vegetable gardens. If I can put thoughts of damp out of my head, condensation on the windows conjures up the deep still of Josef Sudek’s photographs. Looking over the piles of school newsletters and birthday party invitations and unfinished worksheets that grow on the far end of the dining table, I enjoy the shadows and light on the wall. Currently, my studio looks a lot like that dining table, with paper on every available surface. While the work I exhibit is often photographic, I spend most of my stolen studio hours drawing. The joy of drawing is its immediacy.  

At the moment I’m working on a couple of large-ish drawings with entering the Parkin Drawing Prize in mind. I’ve submitted work for the past three years, and have twice been selected as a finalist. It’s fantastic to have a genuinely prestigious award for drawing in New Zealand. Often, drawing doesn’t even get out of the studio. This award encourages artists to share a part of their practice that is, for many, quite private.


Cathy Tuato’o Ross lives at Whangarei Heads with her partner and their four daughters. She exhibits nationally (represented by Photospace Gallery, Wellington), runs drawing classes and workshops, and writes for art publications. In 2010 she graduated from the University of Otago with a PhD in Design Studies

Cathy Tuato'o Ross

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