Catherine Fitz-gerald is an Adelaide artist known for her masterful skill in depicting colour, particularly in nature. Her works have spanned a variety of subjects from fruit, to flowers and organic forms. I was able to view her work at Greenhill Galleries in North Adelaide.
Catherine grew up in Adelaide although she spent 16 years away, she returned in her early 40’s. Her art career began in Year 12, however she did not complete any painting in this time preferring set and furniture design, etching and enamels. She also briefly worked with ceramics before embarking overseas. In Canada she studied calligraphy and began painting little “Victorian” watercolours in her travel diary. She began painting in earnest at the age of 40. When I asked Catherine if she had studied formally she said;
“The best art advice I ever got was from my 9 year old nephew, who was doing his piano practice and said, “My teacher can tell if I haven’t practised 3 times a week.” I realised if I wanted to really give my art a good go I had to paint at least three times a week. Which I have done (as a minimum) for the past 11 years.”
This is by far the best advice on how to paint that I have seen too. She states that even though it may sound banal; one’s whole life develops your eye and informs your art.
Her show is titled “Inspiration and Memory” the title evokes feelings of nostalgic revere. The title of the show was dedicated to her mother who had turned 80 only days before the exhibition opening. For Catherine the garden was always a place that evoked pleasant memories. She was one of 5 children and it was often in the garden that she had private and meaningful conversations with her mother. In this place she learned of family history. The garden was her access point to her mother’s memories. Her mother also had a beautiful singing voice and singing always helped the household tasks go quicker.
One of the notable things about Catherine is that she often paints with children of all ages. She does not teach them as such but they paint with her as fellow artists, exploring the same theme and planning their works. She is a firm believer in the value of art in a well-rounded education. As part of this solo exhibition they are on display with her works.
“Enthusiasm” is a delightful oil on canvas work primarily of a nectarine blossom in the arch of a tree. It is a work which focuses on the point where the branches diverge. Small lively green leaf shoots are apparent on the upper branch with a bold centralised pink blossom being the focal point. Other blossoms echo the shape and hue but lie behind the main branch. There is an array of interesting angles that intersect with the edge of the space. The textures have been brought forward by the use of contrast. This same element has been used to compose the bark. Thick layers of paint have been utilised to ensure that the cracks and roughened surface is apparent in the piece. Enthusiasm is a joyful work, and in many ways it is a celebration of life and of spring. The central arc of the intersection of the branches is reminiscent of a figure joyfully throwing their arms into the air. The vibrant blossoms and tender shoots signify a new life or enthusiasm as the warm weather causes the plant to ecstatically come to life. Contrast is apparent throughout the work the roughened nature of the bark with the tender petals of the blossoms and the bright energetic colours with the stark brown and grey of the tree. I enjoy the painterly qualities of this work which Catherine Fitz-gerald has allowed to show through. There is no hiding that this is a painting. The beautiful brush strokes tell me that. The works in this exhibition had songs attached to them and; for Enthusiasm it was, “Young at heart”.
“Fairytales can come true…if you’re young at heart. For it’s hard you will find to be narrow of mind, if you’re young at heart…and life gets more exciting with each passing day…..”
In this work we can see the honesty of the nature of the thing itself. A simple moment noticing the life of spring and the beauty of a tender blossom has been captured for us to enjoy. Each new time we witness the wonders of spring it is as though we are seeing it with fresh new eyes.
“Resilience” is an altogether different oil painting compared to others in this exhibition. It captures the play of light beneath the leaves and branches of a Gingko plant. The bright blue sky is the background negative space. This space envelops the work and provides a vibrant backdrop which highlights the luminescent leaves and solid defined branches. Through the thin structure of the leaves deep shadows show through. There are solid and defined forms of light and dark reacting within these leaves. The song attached to this piece was; “What a wonderful world”.
“I see trees of green….and I think to myself, what a wonderful world.”
“Resilience” to me is reminiscent of life. The ups and downs, the dark and light a counter play of opposites. More so however is the plant itself, the Gingko has survived since the dinosaurs. It is itself an amazing example of the resilience of the natural world.
List of Catherine’s other works at Greenhill Gallery