Catherine Ducker’s luminous and vibrant floral paintings have found a home in Victoria Art Gallery from 9 January, shedding pinnacles of light on the dark winter days. Here Catherine talks about her style of painting…
Why is painting your choice of art media? I am an observer like most artists – it stems from my childhood. A lot of dysfunction and misunderstanding led me to be quiet as a child, and internalising. I therefore needed an outlet for the rest of my life. I felt at peace conversing with the 2D surface, and it’s been my way of being for a long time. Paint is like gardening or cooking for me. It’s a way of putting ingredients together to make something as a way of personal expression. It has to be personal because that’s how we make genuine, individual work.
What types of paint do you use and why does this suit you? I use whatever I can get hold of; it doesn’t really matter to me. It’s an expression of moments. However, when I left art school in the 1990s I loved the beauty in watercolour and other water-based media – it’s the way it flows into the paper and the freedom that resonates with me. I was trained at Central St Martins over four years. This was great as you are challenged on all levels, to carry on for the rest of your life. Water-based mediums give me the fluidity I want to splash about with if I need to, without the toxicity.
What is it about the language of flowers that appeals to you? My inspiration used to be magical landscapes – the fog rising or the growth of plant formations, the sky, the season, the berries in the hedgerow. It’s really what moves me inside. Flowers really work for me because I grow lots of them. I am a keen soil person, focusing on bio-diversity and the micobiome. Flowers are magical, representing the beauty of species in the UK. I want to find beauty in the world and bring it on to a surface with emotion too.
You have grown biodiverse wildlife corridors around your home in Oxfordshire. How does this feed into your work as an artist? I have been working in conservation and systems as a way to earn my living when I haven’t been able to do this from my art. Monocultures are not good for ecology or humans and therefore I have taken time to get involved in making wildlife corridors and wild flower margins – it’s beautiful. It eases my soul to know nature can get a safe place alongside farming systems. This work is ongoing.
Your flower paintings are defined by light and are full of energy. Do you work intuitively when you paint? I totally work intuitively. Sometimes I will sketch and sketch and that helps me know what to do. Because I draw and paint most days, and so how it should be comes to me, with experience telling me how much space there should be around the subject. I love everything about the negative spaces around the objects in the painting, in this case the flowers. My energy flows onto the surface; there are tempos and, yes, a sense of light is important to me.
Tell us about the backgrounds of your flower studies, which tend to be very abstract. The backgrounds of all my paintings are where a lot of free emotion and my experience as an abstract painter evolve from. I love texture, so this is where I get to play with that.
What artists past and present inspire your practice? I love so many artists, ranging from Hockney, Bacon, Gillian Ayres, William Kentridge, Barbara Rae, Gillian Wearing and Yoyoi Kusama. I also love Eastern art like Thangka painting. I seek out artisis who have very strong emotions but are in control of them and you don’t feel despair when looking at the works, but that ‘it will be ok!’ I love that. Paintings that last the test of time, not rushed.
How would you like observers of your paintings to feel when they visit the gallery? I would love the viewers to look up close at the paintings and lose themselves in the depths of the colours. And hopefully find a bit of magic and connection. To look at again and again. They don’t work on one level – they aren’t just flowers but parts of me. Energy with positive intensions and emotion. They are also gifts of love.
Catherine Ducker: Emotion in Colour, at Victoria Art Gallery, from 9 January – 21 April, in the foyer gallery; victoriagal.org.uk