Catherine Cartwright (LEH 1987-1994)
Emerging Talent Award winner 2018 Catherine Cartwright, who is a multi-disciplinary artist, used the award to help fund a new project called 'Reclaim' featuring women in recovery from abuse.
Catherine Cartwright at her Reclaim exhibition
Catherine is an established artist working primarily with printmaking, drawing and film, often exploring socio-political issues. She has recently completed a Masters at the University of the West of England. She is interested in working closely with communities to create art works that inspire viewers to see challenging issues from a fresh perspective.
She says: "The Emerging Talent Award allowed me to make portraits with service users at Devon Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Services (DRCSAS). It has been a hugely rewarding project to work on and has stimulated many more questions for me. ‘Reclaim’ directly fed into a Phd application and I am very happy to say that I have received funding for a three year research project with the University of Exeter and the University of the West of England. Thank you to the LEH Emerging Talent Award!
I worked with six women who were receiving support from DRCSAS and together we made a series of portraits which were exhibited at The Walkway Gallery (Exeter, UK) in May 2019, and which now reside in the counselling rooms at DRCSAS.
The process was developed in consultation with the staff at DRCSAS. Generally artists work in an open-ended way, however because the women needed to know what they were consenting to, I had to know what the end work would be in advance. I made several test pieces and asked the staff at DRCSAS for their feedback. Then I tested the process with a friend who provided valuable feedback.
How They Were Made
Each of the portraits consists of ninety individual drawings, made with a printing process called monotype. To make them I began by taking an eight second video of the service user turning their head from one side to the other. These eight seconds were deconstructed into ninety individual frames, each showing the service user’s head and shoulder from a different perspective.
The 90 individual drawings were then presented to the service user who chose which to turn over, and which to leave face up. They did not have to disclose reasons for their choices. This meant that the power was in their hands to choose how much of themselves they wanted to reveal. I then stitched them together to create the final portraits.
I chose to work on a lightweight Japanese kozo paper. It is slightly translucent meaning that the trace of the drawing turned over remains partially visible. What is not seen or not heard, is as significant as what we see or hear. In addition, I love the symbolism of the kozo paper itself. It is lightweight, and seemingly fragile, but being made from long fibres it is strong and doesn’t tear easily.
The impact on the service users was positive and here are some of their voices:
Service User 1 said: “I met with Catherine in February 2017, and at the time I was struggling with PTSD. It would have been easy for this topic to have been shied away from, or for Catherine (or the DRCSAS team) not to want to ask active service users to participate. However, I am glad Catherine and the team pursued it, because when it comes to sexual violence you can feel like so many things in your life are out of control, and not asking service users if they would like to participate would have taken another option away.”
Service User 2 said: “Looking at the pictures of myself drawn during the time when I was doing therapy helped me to be more accepting of myself. I thought about how I had been through so much, but it is okay being me and being able to see myself that way made me feel stronger.”
Service User 3 said: “Catherine was so aware of making sure I felt like I had control every step of the way by letting me choose which pictures to have turned over and let me know throughout the process that I had the option not to continue. This has been a freeing and empowering part of my life thanks to Catherine Cartwright and Devon Rape and Sexual Abuse Services. I am now at the start of an Open University course and making plans for the future.”