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Catherine Repko

Spoken or unspoken, a wordlessness, 2022

oil on canvas
55 x 45cm
About Catherine Repko
Painting is a way of reliving her past, but also of reimagining it: a long drawn out passage that ceases to end, like a game of telephone, each painting another whisper across a chain. The story constantly changes, as do her sisters, who are almost always spared of defining facial features – Catherine prompting us to refract our own relations onto these unadorned heads. She’s constantly thickening the plot, metaphorically and physically, mixing her oils in powdered marble dust, commonly used to harden cement. Inspired by the surfaces of frescos – a method of mural painting onto lime plaster, she concocts her oils into a gritty paste, vigorously stabbing at the canvas to disperse the pigment. On zooming closer you’ll notice the surfaces have the illusion of dried terracotta, their matte, mottled facades seeming almost to have been sculpted or formed by a potter. Other marks pick up the bristles from her brushes, which Catherine often ponders on by appreciating the thick swathes of strokes in Richard Diebenkorn’s landscapes, or Joan Mitchell’s exuberant impasto abstracts, as she adds more thick paint to the surfaces, each painting quickly calcifying, morphing drastically from the light crayons and washes they started as. She prefers working at night, her paintings brought to life when most are asleep. Of course her painted sisters stay wide awake with her, whispering and converging, their sand-like, frescoed faces accentuated by the fluorescence of the studio lights above. The paintings eventually fall sleep when marble dust is applied, the paint drying quickly. She’ll often paint repeated versions of the same scene – jostling from oil pastels in sketchbooks to scraps of card, finding more crops and angles to carve out of brush. Painter Milton Avery was continually pulled back to American landscapes for inspiration, painting the hills, shores and fields; Catherine is similarly fixated by her sisters and ‘their ineffable bond’, rolling back the years, each painting for Sister’s whispers a distilling of a singular drawn out moment, as temporary as a cloudscape. Blink and you might miss it…