20 Jan Artist of the Month: Cathy Stocker
I’m interested in art that challenges and engages the viewer, suggesting a different way of seeing the world. To my mind, it should challenge our attitudes and raise our awareness. Something aesthetically pleasing or dramatic can draw you in and start a conversation – a springboard for thought or discussion.
Some of my recent paintings feature big, bold brush strokes in black, which become the backbone of the work, on which to hang the colours. I use oil, acrylic ink and resin, but I don’t like to limit myself. Taking risks and challenging processes are some of the things that drive me – experimenting with different materials are essential to my practice.
I have recently reclaimed the term ‘Artivism’ as my work is very often concerned in raising awareness about social, political and environmental issues. I am an ambassador for causes I feel strongly about and strive to increase people’s awareness and perceptions through my art.
I have previously donated a painting titled ‘Uprooted’ to a charity art auction in Manchester ‘Bid and Rebuild’. The auction, to raise money for two charities in support of refugees rebuilding their lives in the UK. ‘Uprooted’ started life as a Hexaptych in 2017, an artwork consisting of six panels, until I decided to separate the panels and frame them individually.
It is important to me that my work can resonate with causes such as supporting refugees, for example in the case of my work ‘Uprooted’ which was donated to the Manchester ‘Bid and Rebuild’ auction a couple of years ago. There are so many ways you can take a simple idea, a root system of an oak tree, and have a conversation about what roots mean to people and their lives.
The themes in my work are constantly changing but the approach to my inquiries stay constant: to take a simple subject and take it on a journey.
Drawing has always been an important discipline in my practice. I started life as an art student who specialized in life drawing and portraiture, but my tutors were always encouraging us to take things further and it took me a while to figure all this out.
Which artists and movements historically have influenced you?
The Abstract Expressionists are hugely inspirational, in particularly, Hans Hofmann, mainly because of his use of colour and composition and the shear size of his works. At first impression the works are abstract, yes, but the physicality of the pieces make you feel you could step right into one of these landscapes. They are very powerful. Hofmann held a strong conviction about the spiritual and social value of art.
Nicolas de Staël is also a favourite of mine. He died at the young age of 41, his painting career spanning only 15 years (from 1941). However, he managed to produce more than a thousand paintings during that time. I like his work for a similar reason – abstract on the surface, but if you squint your eyes, you could almost step into one of these hazy landscapes. Something at first glance which is striking, but pulls you in to consider a different world on closer inspection.
How important do you think it is that ArtCan is able to offer opportunities for exhibiting outside of the formal gallery structure?
I joined ArtCan as I don’t feel there is adequate representation in rural West Wales for the art that I make. I don’t make a living from my work, although I do sell work. My ambition, for a time, was to make a living selling my work and increase art sales through gallery representation, however I became disillusioned with that process.
As artists all we really want is for people to see our work and to make some sales along the way, to get on a platform that aids this process and is sustainable. This is where ArtCan provides the space, the platform; the connections. I have always had to subsidize my art sales with other work – I feel I have a good balance. I do also have an online shop which makes it easier for people to view and buy my work.
What would be your advice for artists starting out in their careers?
My advice to other artists is to make the work you make and don’t try to second guess your audience. Work hard, make good work and photograph it well. Get a website and make sure you update it regularly. Market your work through social networks, network with other artists and share their work. It can be daunting getting work accepted in exhibitions, so why not set up your own? Do you have a local village hall or is there an empty shop where you could set up a pop up exhibition? This is a good way to start getting some credentials down, to build your CV. After I graduated from Leeds Polytechnic in 1988, I wasn’t sure what I should do, so I took myself down to Yorkshire Dance Centre in Leeds and asked them if I could come and draw the dancers, as a residency and have an exhibition there at the end of it. They loved the idea as it was good publicity for them and really good for me also. The exhibition led on to me making other connections and work in schools plus a collaboration with a choreographer for television (the film is available to watch via my website).