Catherine Robertson

Catherine Robertson paints and sculpts, she is a shoe designer for Ziera and her dachshund Harriet has over 3,000 followers on Instagram!

Hello, my name is Catherine Robertson. I am 46, I have a 5 year old daughter and I live in Pt Chevalier, Auckland.
I have been studying painting at the Browne School of Art here in Auckland for the past three years, which has grown my understanding and appreciation of art.

I have a varied creative background, having worked as a high school drama teacher, a graphic designer and most recently, as a shoe designer for the New Zealand brand Ziera.

The work I have been doing starts with the discarded, fragmented and forgotten - images torn from old newspapers, pieces of broken bumper in the gutter, children’s toys salvaged from the dump.

 I have been inspired by Prunella Clough’s work and point of view and the way she would find beauty even in a discarded sweet wrapper on the footpath. It satisfies me to take overlooked and valueless items and transform them into works that might be seen as mysterious, imperfect and strange.

I like working in a detached way and deliberately avoid having any firm expectations of what the end result might be. The creation of these works is largely material driven and experimental – I work to explore and satisfy my curiosity about materials. I seem to be interested in drawing, painting and sculpture equally, often moving back and forth between the categories and at times, experimenting with ways to combine all three. As an example, I have been playing with casting pieces of my gesso paintings inside round plastic lids using wax or plaster then turning them out like little upside down puddings.

With my paintings/drawings I use newspaper and magazine images which are then painted into, rubbed out with an eraser and sometimes drawn over until I am satisfied with them and that they are no longer recognisable as the original form. I was inspired to do this by Christian Holstad’s ‘Eraserhead’ series, where he erased the ink from ordinary newspaper photographs and drew back into them. I don’t use coloured paint, only white gesso and sometimes white acrylic to isolate the existing colours and shapes already on the paper. Eliminating and isolating parts of the found image with gesso, erasing and fading some parts with a rubber, drawing shapes around this particular piece of plastic as opposed to that flattened can – it is fascinating to see where the work ends up. Sometimes I add a layer of plastic to further obscure the image and deepen the mystery. The finished pieces have often been referred to as fragments, glimpses of something we want to know more about, which I like.

Looking at sculpture, I enjoy the works of Eva Hesse, Constantin Brancusi, Phyllida Barlow, Rachel Whiteread, Richard Tuttle, Antoni Tapies and John Chamberlain, among others.

I have been sculpting with found objects and materials – for example, creating works using the existing shapes of cardboard inserts from wine boxes (from the supermarket where we do the shopping on a Sunday); casting anything from the inside of squashed plastic toy balls to the gaps in the underside of egg cartons, discarded pill packets, toilet rolls and cardboard tampon boxes. I have then been combining the casts with discarded objects like children’s toys.

Having a design background it has been a fascinating to explore the question of ‘what is the difference between art and design’? I found the phrase ‘Art asks questions, while design answers them’ and thought yes, that’s it. That’s always been me. Inside, I’m still that curious child who loved museums and archeological artefacts, unsolved mysteries and the macabre, asking questions, finding second hand treasures and making something out of nothing.