Artist: Catherine Flora Murray
Title: Thinking back
Materials: Stoneware 9 (fired to earthenware temp), underglaze, glaze, ceramic decal
Dimensions: 160mm wide x 220mm high x160mm deep
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Excerpt from Catherine Flora Murray interviewed by Jack Jeweller.
Full interview up on https://medium.com/@Suite7a.
I met Catherine—that feels weird, here on in Katie—over ten years ago. We now live together in our home on Dharug and Gundungurra country in the Blue Mountains with our dog Finley. Katie has an admirable level of technical proficiency in her medium. In her most recent solo show, Cool Drinks, Warm Breeze, presented by Lilac City Studios, she exhibited a selection of càntirs (traditional earthenware water jug, botijo in Spanish), with considerable likeness to the original folk forms, and decorated them with vistas and discarded imagery, from souvenir cartoon characters to hand made signage. In this interview I learn a bit more about her Catalan ancestry, the souvenir-like objects and how they are connected with her sense of being an outsider in her mother’s culture, as well as her memories of one of her avi’s (grandfather) favourite sweet-drinks and her latest experiments with decals.
JJ: There’s a range of cultural data that is represented in the surface decorations of the càntirs, such as the personal imagery of the town where your family live (Sant Pol de Mar) and you spent time as a child with your avi (grandfather)Lluís Aleu. This very personal imagery is juxtaposed with other gleaned souvenir images and cartoons from the town we saw on our trip there. Can you tell us about this notion of tourism and souvenirs that pervades your work?
CFM: I use this kind of imagery alongside the personal family archive of images as a way to explore this sense of being a tourist in a place where my Mum’s from, where family still live and where I have been visiting with my family throughout my life. It’s a way to depict a sense of longing for being there, as well as questioning the nostalgia that the rosy coloured imagery of souvenirs and memories suggest. The counterpart to souvenirs is a kind-of superficial engagement with place. The idea of being a tourist in my Mum’s homeland connects with the notion of wishing to be closer to her culture and the loss of my connection to it via the idea of the souvenir, which literally in Catalan means ‘record’ or ‘remembrance’ or ‘memory’. In these works, I combine images from photos I’ve taken while there, as well as my own sketches of imagined friendly characters (based off of these original images), with decals of my great-great-avi Joan Aleu’s drawings of grotesques that hang in the family home in Sant Pol de Mar, and the brand image of a popular orxata (tigernut milk) – CHUFI – that I love (the way that Avi would say the word “Chufi!” when we went to get some is a strong memory). There’s a lot of personal association in there and it’s meant to be a swirling combination of all these layers as memories that I connect with family and the idea of Barcelona and Sant Pol de Mar in my mind.
JJ: I know you’re experimenting with decals in this show. I vaguely recall something you said about one of the effects of modernisation was that traditional hand painted folk tiles, with iconography from local myths and legends, became more refined and detailed with the introduction of technology that allowed mass-production, while the more raw imagery came from traditional artisans. Is this something you’re alluding to with the use of decals?
CFM: I’m experimenting with the decals because I’m interested in incorporating a decorative method that exists in opposition to the more traditional methods I’ve been using in my work until now, including sgraffito, drawing and painting. I’ll use the càntirs as an example as I’m sure there are examples of this all over the world, but these traditional pots have historically been made by hand, for a purpose; to drink cooled water from. Over the years since their original use has become more redundant, there are many purely decorative versions of these pots sold as souvenirs, some with decal decoration instead. I am interested in looking at the whole spectrum of these objects.