”Companion” – An Exhibition with Catherine Tomkins

”Companion” – An Exhibition with Catherine Tomkins

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01 – 10 Dec 2022, 10:30 am – 03:30 pm
CHAU & CO Gallery
No. 11 alley 123 Nguyễn Đình Thi, Tây Hồ, Hà Nội

From the organizer:

Sticking to the top floor of an old villa on Đội Cấn street as the place to live and work in Hanoi for the past few years, it’s more likely Irish painter Catherine Tomkins didn’t see it coming that one day, her little room cum painting studio with a huge and elaborate altar for ancestor worship that belongs to her frequently absent Vietnamese landlord would naturally become a (surprising) source of inspiration, prompting her to reflect on ideas surrounding lineage and ancestry. But instead of diving deep (again) into the common topic of personal identity, Catherine follows her inner hunch that seeks to reconnect and hold on to a seemingly lost bond and invisible link with those who were gone, those whom she or anyone of us might have never met before in the entire universe and “this life” which has an “expiry date”. They were there but are they still around, here?

Catherine Tomkins is an Irish born, Vietnam based artist. She graduated from Crawford School of Fine Art, Cork Ireland with a BA (hons) in Fine Art in 2010.

Her main medium is oil painting though not exclusively, she also works with water based materials, watercolour, gouache, Indian ink on paper, glass and has worked on illustrative projects for journals and private clients. She has exhibited and has works in private collections in Ireland, Sweden, Austria, The UK and Vietnam. Earlier this year, she took part in “The 5th Hanoi Art Connecting” held at Vincom Center for Contemporary Art (VCCA), a week-long workshop and later, a month long exhibition has a diptych that was created during that time in their permanent collection. She has also exhibited in other group shows this year here in Hanoi.

Her work explores ideas of identity, often utilising the female form, animals, skeletal structures all set in narrative based and fantastical surreal scenes. Her artistic influences are eclectic ranging from classical painters such as Goya, Hieronymous Bosch and El Greco to more contemporary artists such as Marlene Dumas, Daniel Richter, Peter Doig, Betye Saar and Louise Bourgeois to name but a few. Literature and poetry are also a continual source of inspiration for her.

In her work she is concerned with and explores ideas of the female gaze, finding that traditionally speaking this has been omitted from much representation in painting. She is also working with ideas of lineage, intergenerational trauma and the connection between those who have come before us and who we are as a result. Surrealism, often mistakenly considered as a predominantly male movement, has played no small part in her most recent body of work, specifically the works of Leonora Carrington, Dorothea Tanning and Edith Rimmington. Their playful use of and depiction of symbolism, pagan mythology and alchemy were of influence as was their unwillingness to conform to the male gaze

“Surrealism’s legacy included a model for creative practices that encouraged many women to adapt its principles in their search to link artistic self-identity to the realities of gender and female sexuality.” as art historian Whitney Chadwick noted.

Catherine writes of her own work – “Painting has always been the most natural thing in the world for me, the practice and process allows me to tap into that which is not expressible through words, it is a methodical, meditative and often intuitive process which awakens so much, allowing partly formed or fragmented ideas to emerge and take shape in the work. It’s also an incredibly playful process and though the subject matter may seem dark, I personally try to find humour and beauty in that very darkness.”

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