Cathy Wilkes belongs to a generation of artists educated in Glasgow, Scotland, who fuelled the development of that city’s strong art scene in the mid-1990s. Best known for sculpture and installations that work associatively rather than according to a strict narrative, Wilkes has created a distinctive, personal vocabulary that explores the relationship between inner reality and the experience of the physical world. In her deeply personal practice, found objects are placed in precise but unexpected relationships to one another, recalling the fragmented nature of the human psyche and revealing the impossibility of truly and specifically communicating what we feel and need.
Her first one-person exhibition in the United States, Wilkes’s exhibition at the Aspen Art Museum will also be the first to focus on the artist’s paintings. Paintings serve a variety of functions in Wilkes’s installations, employed variously to evoke place or emotion, as masks to hide the faces of mannequins, or to offset the manufactured objects in her assemblages with a more direct revelation of the artist’s hand.
Wilkes’s paintings employ media and compositional techniques as varied as those used in her installations. In some works, materials like latex, rose petals, and saucers are combined with a loose, gestural application of oil and tempera paint. Others reveal the line as a means to create form in a traditional placement of representational figure on a ground. Sometimes text is scrawled in the work, offering the viewer deeper insight into what the primarily abstract works may reference for the artist. Titles too suggest the artist’s intellectual and psychological musings.
Isolating the paintings from the artist’s larger practice, this exhibition provides the viewer an opportunity to reflect on works of poignant immediacy and intimacy. In addition to their beauty and formal ingenuity, the paintings’ power comes from Wilkes’s personal relationship with her compositions, a bond intensified by the length of time she spends working on them and the settings in which they were created (painted over a bathtub and periodically “washed clean”). As Wilkes explains, some of these works have served as her companion during the death of a parent or the birth of a child; the experience of the viewer in front of them should evoke a fittingly emotional experience.
Cathy Wilkes was born in Belfast, Ireland, in 1966 and currently lives and works in Glasgow, Scotland. Her one-person exhibitions include The Modern Institute, Glasgow (1999), Transmission Gallery, Glasgow (2001), Cubitt Gallery, London (2001); Migros Museum, Zurich (2002); Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin (2004), Galerie Giti Nourbakhsch, Berlin (2004, 2007); Milton Keynes Gallery, England (2008); Turner Prize Exhibition, Tate Britain, London (2008); The Modern Institute, Glasgow (2008). Group exhibitions include Beck's Futures, ICA, London (2000); Gwanju Biennial, South Korea (2002); Independence, South London Gallery (2003); Selective Memory, Scottish Pavilion, Venice Biennale, and Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (2005); 4th Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art (2004) and If I Can't Dance, I Don't Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution, MuHKA Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Antwerp, Belgium (2007).