3 weeks ago

Artistic License: Amy Cutler

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Allegories, archetypal characters and artistic patterns combine in the New York-based artist’s new exhibition – “Colloquies” – Amy Cutler’s first in Ireland. She has exhibited extensively in the US and her work can be found in collections at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museo Nacional Reina Sofia, Madrid among many others. She tells us more about her inspirations and artistic process.

How would you define your own artwork?

My work portrays the interior view of interpersonal relationships combined with current affairs. I use personal metaphors and allegories to form the narratives that are open for interpretation. There are many layers to my work and often some dark humour.

What is the inspiration behind “Colloquies”?

“Colloquies” is a collection of work that spans 2006-2019. The work was selected by Anna O’Sullivan, director of the Butler Gallery. After reviewing her curated selections I found some commonality within the group. There were many conversations happening within, as well as between certain pieces. Colloquy is a conversation. Most of the work has a feeling of hesitation. I see them as the moment one pauses to listen before a delivering a response.

A strong focus on women defines your work …

The strong focus on women is the result of the work being about my own personal experiences. I’m interested in creating a collective environment and by paring it down – I avoid societal tropes that distract from the psychological depth that I am aiming for. The women become a collective but are very much individuals. The women and animals are interchangeable. Often acting as stand-ins for something that would be too obvious and tied to something too specific. An example of this can be found in “Seeking Advice”. One can bring to it what they like but when I made it I was thinking about Trump. This painting is actually a portrait of how I feel about my country’s current leader. Two confused women stand at the rear end of a horse seeking advice. They come in disguise and are offered a glimpse of themselves. It’s much more rewarding and interesting to leave room for interpretation.

Intricate patterns on clothing are another feature of your artworks …

On the whole women are more expressive in the way they dress and I have relied on this to also expand my colour palette immensely. I choose patterns and motifs that expand upon the inter-workings of the figures that wears them. They might have a facial expression that has them lost in thought but their dress is covered with erupting volcanos. In the small painting “Serve” a woman stands with four arms displaying or offering up spare body parts. She stands there as a surrogate for young women who have been canonised as saints in the Catholic Church. I found their stories in the Book of Saints and found the correlation to the “Me Too” movement was outstanding. There are so many young women in the Book of Saints who have been pursued by older men with power. Their only way out of a bad situation was to declare their devotion to the church and to self-mutilate to ward off desirability. Saint Agatha’s breasts were cut off, Saint Lucy tore her eyes out. These are common images always portrayed in a calm and non-violent way. I find this fascinating. This non-violent portrayal of horrific events is also common in Persian miniatures, which is another source of great interest for me.

How and where do you work?

My studio is separate from my home. I work mostly from my imagination but there is a lot of unscholarly research that goes into the work. I sometimes start with a reference for a specific textile or animal but quickly become disloyal. I’m not interested in perfection. I borrow landscapes and trees from unrelated regions and adapt them to my needs. The faces of the people are from my imagination but that said, if I am spending a lot of time with a particular person they usually end up in my paintings. I also “shop” for certain features on public transport. It’s a good way to find a new type of nostril or ear shape. People are usually tired and worn out on the subway and I carry those gestures back to the studio with me.

Need to Know: “Colloquies” continues until October 6 at Butler Gallery, The Castle, Kilkenny; www.butlergallery.com.

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