By John Owoo
(In Johannesburg – South Africa)
Fifty-four years after his first solo exhibition, 74-year-old South African artist Norman Catherine is showcasing his works at the swanky Circa Gallery in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Titled “Head to Toe”, the show confirms a captivating understanding of the creative practice of Catherine, which has spanned several decades through an amazing capacity of exploring complex themes while merging diverse materials.
Psycho-surreal delineations of human and animal themes alongside those of violence, sexuality and a number of social issues that confront South Africa and the world at large emerge as one moves from one piece to the other.
Catherine’s sculptures, which employ discarded objects including customized fiberglass shop window mannequins, bathroom fixtures and garden taps, which he once fitted with resin testicles for his sexually suggestive “Tapticle” series” in 1974, simply enchant the viewer.
Unquestionably, he has extended his repertoire from fiberglass to painted wood and more recently bronze through collaborations with foundries including Workhorse Bronze Foundry and sculptor Angus Taylor’s Dionysus Sculpture Works, where he produced the monumental bronze “Head to Toe” in 2022.
His works reveal a dystopian foresight of the socio-political situation, which enlightens his inner consciousness – indeed, history, horror, crime, conflict, psychoses and politics among others – serve as stimuli for his creative output,which constantly move from surrealistic realms to real live scenarios.
He communicates his sarcastic vision through a collocation of dark and light sensibilities while alternating between adream-like world alongside a physical and material world that leave the viewer in deep thoughts and feelings.
With Catherine, human figures transfigure into dogs, snakes, crocodiles with body parts that appear to be possessed by brutish influences thereby exposing his biosphere, which is equally tumultuous and alluring while reveal his dark humour.
“Head to Toe” evidences Catherine’s commitment to graft, the pleasures that underpin revision, refinement and reinvention. The selection foregrounds his printmaking and sculpture. It may be recalled that his earliest resolved work from the 1970s used these two media to conjure psycho-surreal depictions of human and animal subjects.
The Circa Gallery was constructed in 2009 alongside the Everard Read gallery, which is Johannesburg’s oldest private art gallery. An architectural landmark, the building has received awards for its striking design and its green credentials, with solar panels and rainwater tanks making it one of the most self-sufficient buildings in the plush suburb of Rosebank.
The exhibition ends on Sunday April 9, 2023.