Morton Fine Art is presents “Strange Country, Strange Times,” a solo exhibition of paintings and prints by the artist Katherine Hattam. Incorporating literary and art-historical elements into her work, Hattam’s interiors offer materialist explorations of ultimately psychic space. The artist’s first solo exhibition in the U.S., “Strange Country, Strange Times” will be on view from November 16 – December 20, 2022, at Morton Fine Art’s Washington, D.C. space.
Brightly shaded walls and windows, collaged book spines and iconographic depictions of native Australian fauna and flora make up much of Hattam’s painterly practice, a lifelong investigation with the domestic interior as its focus. Acknowledging a centuries-long preoccupation with domestic space as both the imaginative site and societal bounds of female artistic production, Hattam’s totemic kitchen tables and charged dining-room chairs recur as motifs throughout her artistic practice, doubly imbued as locations of domestic labor and sites of imaginative longing.
Often, windows look out onto fantastic landscapes – a rueful rumination on experiences proffered but withheld. In “Strange Country, Strange Times,” the vibrancy of Hattam’s window-views infiltrates into the domestic interior, reflecting the seeping isolation of the recent pandemic years, when means of travel and discovery were often confined to the mind. Hattam was well-equipped for such conditions: her domestic spaces have always been inveterately imaginative, expanded by (and often literally constructed from) the pages and covers of the books she’s been reading. Her frank pastiche of passing literary and artistic influences onto these interior landscapes discloses the extent to which Hattam views the perception of space as an inherently psychological construction, with internal influences and personal histories governing the way we make sense of even the most familiar room.
In 2019, Hattam received a fellowship grant to study at the Australian Print Workshop undermaster printer Martin King, where she began learning the method of jigsaw woodcut printing, a technique of classical Japanese art that was later adopted by Edvard Munch and Paul Gauguin. Several works in this exhibition were first made at that workshop in the months immediately preceding the pandemic. One of this show’s title works, Strange Country, sets Australian animal life in a landscape originally taken from Giotto. Reflecting on these portentous prints, Hattam notes that the pandemic allowed her to recognize the isolation implicit to living in Australia, a condition of being which she has often imposed into her art.
Hokusai’s Great Wave off Kanagawa (1831), another woodblock print, is inserted regularly throughout Hattam’s work here, alternately as window views or paintings-within-paintings, and represents for the artists a mentality of time – waves of feminism, waves of coronavirus – that embraces natural rhythms based on a sense of tidal flow.
A longstanding image for Hattam is that of a wood-backed dining room chair, which the artist has drawn and even reconstructed as sculpture since the 1990s. The persistence of chairs, tables and books stand in for family members and personal influences, like portraits in absentia. Despite the inveterate cerebrality of her interior compositions, Hattam insists that her works are always “about actually being there: they exist because someone has been there to see it.”
Her furniture, despite its symbolically potency and personal resonance, is also steadfastly literal, and represents a window into the broader material world. Through her compositions, Hattam asks: How much of one’s daily life is a mixture of what’s going on in your head and what’s going on outside?
About the Artist
Katherine Hattam (b. 1950) is a Melbourne-based Australian artist. Literature was a passion for Hattam’s mother, who first read Freud in adolescence, later passing her appreciation down to her daughter. Hattam graduated from Melbourne University in 1974 with a BA in Literature and Politics and a focus on psychoanalytic theory.
Literary references abound in her work; some of the books used in her compositions derive from her mother’s extensive collection, while others are scoured from second-hand stores. Works on paper – drawing, printmaking and collage – are a continuing thread in her practice.
Hattam’s work is in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Queensland Art Gallery, University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology, Artbank, Heide, Art Gallery of South Australia, Deakin and La Trobe Universities, Warrnambool Art Gallery and Bendigo Art Gallery. In 1992 she was awarded an MFA by the Victorian College of the Arts, and in 2004 she was awarded a PhD by Deakin University.
She has been represented by Morton Fine Art since 2011.
Morton Fine Art
Morton Fine Art Founded in 2010 in Washington D.C. by curator Amy Morton, Morton Fine Art (MFA) is a fine art gallery and curatorial group that collaborates with art collectors and visual artists to inspire fresh ways of acquiring contemporary art. Firmly committed to the belief that art collecting can be cultivated through an educational stance, MFA’s mission is to provide accessibility to museum-quality contemporary art through a combination of substantive exhibitions and a welcoming platform for dialogue and exchange of original voice.
Morton Fine Art specializes in a stellar roster of nationally and internationally renowned artists as well as has an additional focus on artwork of the African Diaspora.Female artist
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