An Introduction by John Bernard Myers
The rips, tears and slicing featured so cunningly in Catharine Warren’s papier-collage paintings transfigure or indicate the central contour found in her series, Kouros. The torsos alluded to are suggestively Greek, archaic, sexually elusive. They can be read as either convex or concave – the interior of a shell? – the exterior curvature of a body? Linear outlining is indicated only by the edge of the torn material, not explicitly through drawing. The visual incidents occurring around the central torsos seem to exist in idealized space, a trope for eternal patterns that exist only in the mind. It is Catharine Warren’s strength of imagination that convincingly projects Otherness, yet there the Otherness is – in front of our eyes – quite touchable and real. Hers is a curios Platonism in which the image, and the idea of an image, become a visual fact.
Barbara Rose* on
Catharine Warren’s Abstract Imagination
Catharine Warren has been an abstract painter all her life. However, her work has taken various detours as she developed a unique personal style. From the beginning, however, using collage as a means of changing the space of abstraction and enriching surface as well as a way to introduce a new kind of drawing and detail to create more complex interactions between space, color and form has been a signal characteristic of her stylistic evolution.
As a student of leading lyrical abstractionist Friedl Dzubas, she was exposed to the color field painting style championed by Clement Greenberg. Her love of nature, plants and flowers is often reflected in her brilliant palette and winding forms. Her addition of collage to canvas allowed her to explore ways to avoid the literal flatness Greenberg demanded by creating spatial disjunctions when the pasted areas, which often were covered with a pattern differing from that of the painted surface, that were visually exciting, recalling the way Willem de Kooning and Lee Krasner made collaged paintings. Their work redefined how collage could be used as painting rather than simply to introduce a different texture in a space that was still based on Cubist illusionism.
By keeping up with developments in painting after Cubism, Warren defined herself as a thoroughly contemporary painter. Cutting out shapes to apply on top of painted surfaces relates her technique to Matisse’s late monumental decoupages in which he used the scissors rather than the pen or brush to draw shapes. In addition, her lifelong interest in Asian art and textiles also helped define her style as a highly personal interpretation of modernist painting. Working in her studio in St. Remy in the south of France, close to where Matisse himself lived for the last decades of his life inspires her in the same way Matisse was inspired by this land of luxe, calme and volupte.
* Barbara Rose is an American art historian and art critic.