Coffee Table Book:
Jung & Yang
There seems to be sufficient Freudian fodder in Catherine's work to fill the therapist's couch. With their gaping mouths, seeping sores and amputated limbs, his double-headed, phallo-erotic monsters seem to have emanated from a well of profound emotional trauma resulting from a troubled childhood. After all, it was sculptor Henry Moore who stated a child's iconography is already established by the age of seven.
Even the lighter touches that pepper the dark, sardonic irony pervading much of his work, suggest a psychic anxiety beneath the amusement. If you like, call his comic devices panaceas for pain, lozenges for a deep-throated sense of alienation or balms for psychological bruises. There is an assortment of pithy bromides that can be used to access the contradictory elements in his art. But neither a purely political or psychoanalytical reading of his work -- although both are valid interpretative devices -- quite encapsulate its multiplicity.
The overriding paradox of Catherine's work lies in its apparent simplicity. With the overtly politicised works constructed in the 80s, we need not ask what their meaning is, or what Catherine is attempting to articulate. His titles refer directly to apartheid or at least the results of oppression. He employs archetypal, easily intelligible imagery in brash, neon hues, and articulates irrational spaces in order to make overt hard-hitting 'statements'. The works need no higher translation, no cultural commissars to convey meaning, for they are painfully comprehensible. They tickle our collective funny bone --but a discomforting itch remains.
In Jungian terms the unconscious is described as the shadow, the 'sum of all the personal and collective psychic elements, which, because of their incompatibility with the chosen conscious attitude, are denied expression in life and therefore coalesce into a relatively autonomous splinter personality with contrary tendencies in the unconscious.'(5) But the shadow can also be a positive force because it is the repository of unknown creative possibilities. Without facing the darkness, one cannot embrace the light.
Darkness resides in Catherine's humour. Laughter crouches in the cloaks of gloom suffocating the shrieks of despair. It even penetrates works that depict the insanity of oppression, of both a political and metaphysical nature. But sometimes the laughter is gagged. Darkness pervades in works like Last Wish (1985). Here, oarless rowboats tipple precariously over a raging torrent embracing the abyss. Beneath them, an airborne figure tries desperately to fly or swim against the current. Produced during Catherine's sojourn in America, this work suggests a sense of nemesis that is more personal than political. Catherine seems not merely to be scratching beneath the surface, but almost clawing his way onto the precipice and hanging on by his fingernails. But in works like Hope (1986), the fear one might feel at the ominous threshold to the abyss is mitigated by a startling halo of white light. It bathes the serrated steps leading through the cavernous entrance in a gentle glow. In this work the title 'Hope' contains no trace of irony.
And Catherine's duels with duality are expressed most overtly in the 'dreamtime' paintings such as Dreaming with the Enemy and Attendant. The battle of the divided self is also articulated with particular ferocity in the double-headed works such as Psychoanalysed (1986), Therapist (1991), Midnight Hour (1985), Till We Meet Again (1991) and A la Carte (1989). Both the 'dreamtime' and double-headed works deal directly with the ruptured psyche.
If Freud and Jung were around for a jousting session with Catherine, the artist would, probably, with characteristic disingenuousness, divulge the details of a recurring nightmare. In the dream an intruder is trying to break into the house. He awakes from a sleep walk in the kitchen just as the intruder is about to nab him. The house, of course symbolises the superego - the shell. The intruder represents the id and the terrain of repressed, unconscious desire.
'My work is approached like a seesaw,' explains Catherine. 'It is always working with opposites and going up fast or down fast and trying to balance in the middle at the same time. Either it starts out with some kind of logic and turns out to be absurd or starts out as an absurd idea and I try to make some logic out of it without losing the mystery or secret subconscious meanings it might still contain.
The act of accidentally creating a mystery of absurdity is more interesting
to me than too formulated a concept. It allows me more freedom to produce
my own balance in a chaotic world.'