Katherine Liddy

Traces September 26 - October 3 2002

New Page 1

Since 1998, Katherine Liddy’s work, which was primarily of animated figures in vivid primary and secondary colours, has endured a lengthy, yet intriguing transition. Those who are familiar with her work will remember a dramatic change about two years ago. Her palette became darker and more limited, and we were introduced to works combining card, alluminium and wood – etched and worked onto with graphite and oil pastel. The content and characters had taken a mammoth step forward in time by featuring the character Ophelia while borrowing words from Shakespeare and modern Irish verse.

In February of this year, Katherine Liddy’s characters chose to retreat further still back in time. This most recent work is rooted in the midst of popular Celtic mythology and presents a world full of vitality and eloquence. It sites its appeal in the common intensity of a since-time-began tradition - feeding our profound fascination for the fantastical, the mythological, superstition and tale. Liddy’s mellifluous images such as the Mayfly and Daylily symbolise fragility and ephemeral life. Juxtaposed and directly contradicting these notions are solid figures cast on heavy, raw materials – emphasising notions of the primitive instinct. They are reminiscent of Picasso’s studies of bullheads and primitive cave painting and yet contemporary in appearance, often flanked by vertical lines and panelling. She does not depend on myth or wish us to understand historical data. The subject of her work, obliquely viewed, is the contemporary experience of many. She faces us with our own mortality and this notion of the fleeting moment and the cycle of life is the essence of her work.


Unlike literary or graphic illustration, this work implies a style that is figurative without being directly descriptive of a story. Liddy represents themes of archetypal significance, evoking the essence of a narrative in a symbolic and suggestive manner. By focusing on the shape of the birds in flight and that of their wings, Liddy implies a foreboding mood, rather than describing realistic detail. In a very similar way, the menacing threat of the brown bull comes to symbolise conflict. For example, the Brown Bulls is at first unrecognisable until we piece together hints of the form and realise the emergence of three looming figures. Brutality and offence is the very crux of this painting, and this notion is maintained by Liddy’s use of rough wood, cracked and heaving with tension.


In the treating of popular legends and the notion of immortality, the paths of inquiry are tortuous, and seldom does the meeting of word and image rouse us both intellectually and sensually. Understanding the interest surrounding such notions is difficult. Yet among many points that are obvious, and many others that are probable, there remains many other facts of which we cannot feel sure that our own explanation is the true one; and the artist who endeavours to fathom the primitive thoughts of mankind, as enshrined in mythology, takes one step closer.     - Antoinette L. Sinclair 


Paintings in the exhibition