Katharine Horgan

Review by Thomas de Freston
Thomas de Freston is a contemporary history painter

The image is Vogue. Contemporary painting is as littered with images as the rest of Western culture. Despite claims of wit, irony and a return to content the truth remains that much of it inadvertently reveals the bankrupt nature of imagery. Yet hidden amongst the graphic obsessed norm lie many painters who concern themselves with the one truism of painting; paint! Katharine Horgan is one of these painters. Such painterly obsessions are considered by many to have gone out of fashion due to their symbiotic relationship to Greenbergian Modernism; formal abstraction. Yet if we are able to uncouple painterly surfaces from his limiting dictate then we will realise that artists like Katharine Horgan continue to be important and offer a direct and alternative response to reality. For me that response, whilst less literal, is more compelling and important than anything the image can offer.

Consider the surfaces on view here. The layer upon layer of smooth translucent paint, laid down in almost hypnotic and rhythmical edge to edge strokes. The process is repetitive but certainly not mechanical. Every layer is determined by the layer before in process of evolution. The subtle dash of a warm umber to soften a cool blue slate grey. It is upon these instinctive and knowledgeable variations that these paintings are taken forward, slowly and naturally. This is a conversation between canvas and artist, one held through the language of paint; an intimate relationship balancing on important yet small decisions.

These observations seem to support Greenbergian exclusivity, an abstract closed door to reality. Not so. Through her process Katharine Horgan has created surfaces which are like rocks, they have grown, been washed and worn, built and eroded. The smooth surfaces have a history of their own, the time which has been put into them has been captured and held.

Again consider what you are looking at, what these works do with space, what these works do to our eyes and minds? Spatially these works do what contemporary paintings should do. For five hundred years Western painting sought to go as far beyond the surface as possible, denying the flatness through naturalistic illusion. The next one hundred and fifty years were supposedly spent deconstructing image and depth in an inevitable move towards abstraction and flatness. With both systems exposed our job is now to challenge both poles of painting. To make works which display the ability to fall into illusionistic depths whilst also celebrating and confirming their flatness. These paintings do that.

The impact of these formal plays of plastic values is anything other than purely self reflexive, and neither should it be. Don't try to seek false truths beneath the surface; don't attempt to impose lies into the layers. Instead just experience these paintings and allow sensation to reveal the truths that thoughts hide.