Art has no manners, I always feel, great art that is, and while most creative people paint diffidently and politely to capture the shape and outline of a subject, few have the will or courage of the explorer: of someone who wants to dive in as deep as they can and discover what it is that fuels the question or statement behind a person’s eyes. The Picture below is of Peter O’Toole, and anyone who has seen the actor in in Lawrence of Arabia will recognise that burning fanatical look. It is this characteristic of her painting which draws me to the work of Emma Cattell.
More recently she has started producing paintings of the seven deadly sins, and as an example, here is her picture of Envy. Once again the secret is in the eyes, but look at the angle of the head and the way Emma has captured that discrete deliciously unsettling manner which lies at the heart of a failing we might see in another although seldom in ourselves. The longer you look at the picture, the more disturbing it becomes, because Emma has been brave enough to confront the reality of this profoundly destructive emotion.
The impulse behind the painting was apparently founded in her struggle to ‘capture’ another subject. Failing to do that irritated the hell out of her, to the point where she literally began to beat the canvas with her paintbrush. Under such, circumstances, manners, caution and fear tend to exit the room leaving plenty of space for instinct, insight and aggression. The desire to just get the subject on canvas and to hell with the consequences.
“Manners maketh man” some wise man said but I always believe, in part, that manners protect us from ourselves and keep the raw, selfish destructive, tender lost part of our personality well out of harms way. By becoming annoyed with herself, Emma let some primal aspect of nature, normally hidden by inhibitions, loose on the canvas, and the longer you look at the second painting in particular, the more you will be struck by the talent and insight she has allowed to escape from her ‘inner being.’
Emma Cattell built her name and reputation as a photographer, and to quote from the website linked below ” She has shot divas in their dressing rooms, rock stars in their homes, women prisoners in Iraq and nurses in Camp Bastion, Afghanistan; she is still one of the few British female photographers to have visited a war zone. Her long career has seen her travelling from Belgrade to Iraq, from Antigua to Mombassa, from Bangkok to Croatia and many, many places in between. ” Revealing the unique in the individual is her passion, as it is mine. It shows in her impressive photography and now it is clear in her painting.
What that tells you is that Emma Cattell has been to places and in situations most of us can hardly imagine. The artist draws on her experience, and she has had more than most. To meet her in the everyday is to meet an unassuming women who presumes little about herself, but to meet her through her work is to be greeted by a fierce spirit who has survived experiences most of us would find overwhelming.
Go over to her website http://www.emmacattell.com/index.html and learn all about her. She is, I believe, a talent to watch, and one I am proud to know