About Catherine Hamilton
from Victoria, VIC
Catherine Hamilton is a Melbourne based artist.
Catherine proudly works out of her studio at Southern Buoy Studios.
SBS Q&A with Catherine Hamilton
How I work and what inspires me.
I draw mainly in charcoal – it’s a wonderful versatile medium that I push and shove around the canvas or paper. I still believe you need to be able to draw to be able to understand the foundations of painting.
I paint using pastel, oils or acrylic. I would describe my method of working as innovative and experimental. I research the working methods of Masters such as Rembrandt, Degas, Turner and many of the impressionists that worked into light. I realised that these artists were very experimental in their approach to work. They all pushed the medium and its various nuances; experimenting with composition, tones and colour. Turner particularly scrubbed and rubbed his work to create amazing effects. Each piece of work becomes a journey rather than an idea of how it will finish. Sometimes half way through the work I will often take another quite unexpected direction.
I try and work direct from life or direct from memory. A recent collection I have just finished called Dawn’s Winter Light was all done from the memory of studying the morning light through the canopy of a forest. I find this method much more satisfying than trying to copy or work from photographs because I can tap the emotion, the feeling. Of course, there are times that I need to work from photographic images to help the study, but I try not to rely on them too much.
My portraits are also mainly all done from either life or memory. I paint various characters and people I have met on my travels and I try and sketch them quickly from life. Often a 5 or 10 minute drawing is sufficient. If the face is fresh in my mind I can visualise it in my mind and then immediately capture an idea of that person. The portraits I am working on currently are using this method. It’s not always easy and the painting changes constantly until I am satisfied with the result and that I have managed to capture something that I remembered so vividly about that person.
I incorporate printing into my work. I paint with printing ink onto perspex sheets and take mono prints from the sheets which I either use again to help reverse an image or to work into. The print becomes the foundation of the painting. I use this method often for figurative and portrait but also the landscape work I have done.
I write. The writing becomes as important as my sketching. Sometimes the writing is about that moment and my reaction to something or about a person or their face, their character. The writing is my personal response to what I am seeing so it becomes an important part of the concept and I like to include writing in my exhibitions.
I work on various concepts of work, triggered by a subject that has captured my eye. At the moment after travelling to the Greek Islands last year and again this year, teaching a painting group, I became mesmerised by the reflections and movement and light playing on water in the little harbours. The Greek light is clear and the colours bright so there was a magical complexity of dancing colour and shape on the water at certain times of the day. So last year I started a number of small paintings that I continued on my last visit in September. So the work I am currently concentrating on for an exhibition is that of Light Play on Water. I rely on sketches and of course in this case photographs but memory also as it’s so fresh in my mind.
What recent experiences have moved me.
I have been fortunate enough to travel extensively this year. New York to visit my son and then on to London to see family and then Africa where I volunteer at a small school teaching art to children aged between 5 and 15. Then on to France and Greece. So it’s been an unusual year for me.
I gain such inspiration when I travel from so many experiences, people I meet, the country, city.
In New York and London I visited many galleries and exhibitions. The galleries in New York housed some amazing work, some I have never seen before. Works by Rembrandt I had no idea existed. One of the most inspiring galleries was the Getty Centre in Los Angeles. Unbelievable, not only the architectural design of the building and gardens, but the work – it housed some real gems. I use this time to research. I teach so the research is important and I often obtain many of my ideas and notes for future classes from these visits.
Of course my work in Africa inspires me so much. I work for a charity called Our Rainbow House. Started by one of the most inspirational woman I have ever met, Alison Ray, who is based in Emerald, Queensland. I first volunteered in 2014 spending a month teaching the children art. I taught a programme called The Language of Colour; this is one of the main subjects I teach throughout Australia and overseas and I took this concept to the children. They soon learnt all about colour and how to make different colours through mixing the paints which I took over with me. Many of the materials are donated by some great sponsors and I also did a certain amount of fund raising for the trip. The compound and school is situated in a village just outside Lusaka. A poor village, almost 30,000 people on 5 hectares and over 6000 orphans. We educate 51 of them.
I returned in June teaching the children mono printing, drawing and papier mâché. The experience has had a fundamental impact on me and although it can be heart wrenching at times, it has got into my soul, as Africa has, so I look forward to continuing with this wonderful project and the teaching there. Some of my photographic collection of portraits and drawings of people in the village have come from this experience.
What am I most looking forward to now that I am working out of SBS.
To take a studio at SBS was a huge decision for me. I wasn’t sure about working amongst a group of other artists under one roof. I have always worked in isolation which can be good and bad.
However there is a different atmosphere now to my working environment. There is quite a buzz and although I can still shut myself away when I want to, it’s great to be able to talk to other artists and be amongst the hub of them working too, on various collections.
I am looking forward to holding classes in the studio as well as having the same place to work from. I enjoy the occasional visitors that pass by and of course there is a wonderful gallery space to present your work on. Exciting times ahead.
For more information, visit Catherine’s website.