Each month one of the art.earth Board of Directors selects an artist from the membership because they are particularly taken with their work. This month our Featured Artist is Catherine Cartwright chosen by Julia Bond.
I am a printmaker and I have both a studio practice and a community arts practice. I like to experiment with printmaking, animation and collage and I use Instagram as a digital sketchbook for these playful explorations.
My studio practice oscillates between outward-looking, socio-political issues such as gender-based violence, and internal contemplative art-making inspired by my relationship to woodland which is a place I find refuge. One of these works “Carefully Bound” (drypoint and embroidery) is currently in the Greenhill Arts Open (until 11th June 2022). This year I was commissioned by the Hospital Rooms charity to make new work for Beech Ward at Torbay Hospital. A mental health unit is home to many unsettled emotions, and so I wanted to make a calming work for their entrance hall. As woodland is a place where I and many others find calm and joy I created a large-scale woodland print inspired by an early morning walk in woodland by Ashton Court in Bristol. For this I worked with monotype printing onto large sheets of Japanese paper. Monotype printing is where you have a thin layer of printing ink on a perspex sheet, lay the paper face down onto the ink, and draw on the back. It’s a bit like drawing into the ether as it’s only when you peel the paper back that you can see what has emerged! The process creates wonderful fuzzy marks and lines that are unlike any other mark-making.
In 2018/9 I was the recipient of an ‘Urgency’ commission from the Arts & Culture at University of Exeter. I collaborated with protesters to create ‘portrait-placards’ which were exhibited in the windows of MakeTank in Exeter, outward facing onto the street for all passer-bys to view. This work drew attention to the use of facial recognition technologies and the risk to protest by recording and profiling potential ‘trouble-makers’. The Exeter protesters I collaborated with included young Fridays for Future protesters and a long-term eco-activist. With the recent passing of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill the risk to protest remains ever present.
I really enjoy working with all different communities and since 2014 my community art practice has focused on working with women affected by domestic/sexual abuse and violence, including a 5 month residency at Exeter Women’s refuge. The refuge closed while I was there due to a change in funding and a film I made with Josh Gaunt about the refuge called ‘The Last Resident’, can be seen here https://vimeo.com/97281994 .
These experiences have led directly to my current PhD research into trauma-informed arts practice. I am exploring how artists can work safely with communities affected by trauma, minimising risks of compounding trauma in the participants, as well as how the artist is supported. Community artists are not art therapists but our work often brings us into contact with vulnerable individuals. The focus of our work is on the art-making, but sometimes we are considered safe people to talk to. Generally, artists working in communities are not trained, but we learn on the job. That makes us vulnerable to insensitive working practices and at risk of secondary trauma or burnout. For this research I’ve been working with Devon Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Services, and I’m based in Cultural Geography at the University of Exeter. Do get in touch if you’d like to find out more.