My life as a painter and writer are rooted in feelings and dreams about the claiming of self or selves by wild places, creatures, and desire.
After ten years working with watercolour I’ve returned to oil paint and oil bars; I love the way their inherent temperaments take me on unexpected journeys with my imagery.
My palette might be considered alchemical: there are fleshy peachy pinks, rosy madders, deep carmines; cadmium and lemon yellows, earthy blacks and petal-tinted whites.
Each morning I write and I read: Cixous, Bachelard, illuminated manuscripts, and Tantra are a few examples. My notebooks accompany me everywhere; at the studio I make notes as I paint.
I tune into different parts of my body and register bodily cues: these signals help me hear the voice of the painting/text. At night some of my painting work is done as I sleep. I record my dreams: they can provide a shimmering psychic field, a site to enrich my practice.
I’m weaving together threads and sinews from thirty years of deep dreaming and shamanic knowing into the bones and flesh of my painting practice.
Rev.d Dr. Richard Davey wrote the following about my Shetland-inspired watercolours, in 2017:
Painting is a physical and decisive act: a mark initiating a world, forcing a form into existence, drawing ephemeral fragments from the imagination into physical being. Paint builds – it structures and shapes, leaving a pigment deposit on paper and canvas; allowing formless things to become concrete, drawing the invisible into perceivable being. But this is not what we encounter in Kate Walters’ Shetland watercolours. These are not paintings that build form, but vehicles through which we are pulled into formlessness; encounters with the ephemeral rather than the physical, a breath of pigment deposited onto paper that suggests figures and forms without defining their solid presence. Figures float into being, still tethered into the void, their weightless form a hesitant proposition. The origin of these tentative creatures was a dream granted to Walters when she was recently staying on Shetland; a vision of her foetal form cast adrift in a disembodied uterus, its unbounded body free of physical constraints, floating in interconnected communion with the universe. It is perhaps unsurprising that such a dream should have come on Shetland, a thin space where physical boundaries are dissolved in the constant ebb and flow that blends sea and shore in a swirling, unresolved flux. As she watched seals blur the line between sea and air and terns draw soaring patterns in the air before plunging into crystalline waters, Walters herself became a shamanic hollow bone, a conduit between the physical and immaterial realms. In her sketches she is seal, fulmar, tern and foetus, a boundary crosser, diving into a cosmic space before birth and after death where everything is held in unresolved, undifferentiated potential.
Professor Penny Florence has just completed a new essay on the recent work. An extract follows:
TREMENHEERE GALLERY. SEPTEMBER 7TH – OCTOBER 2ND 2019.
The Tree of Thought: The Art of Kate Walters
Kate Walters’ art speaks clearly. Yet because it is visceral, communicating to our bodies first, it can
be easy to underestimate the quality of thought it embodies.
Embodied thought addresses the kind of understanding that bypasses spoken or written language
because it is deeper. Precisely because it embodies rather than explains or narrates, it is not didactic;
Walters never preaches.
There is, nonetheless, a powerful and consistent message. It concerns the big questions: what does it
mean to be fully human; what is our place in the natural world; where are we going; questions that
echo Gauguin’s great philosophical work, D’où venons-nous, Que sommes-nous, Où allons-nous?
But, unlike Gauguin, the work does not so much pose questions as feel its way towards articulating
the mysteriousness of being.
This is a Shamanic understanding of what many of the ancient religions variously call the Path or the
Way – and Walters is a fully initiated Shaman. This is not a casual or loose similarity, but rather the
long-term commitment that underpins her art.
So what is this Shamanic terrain? It is paradoxical, because it is fully aware, yet indirectly evoked. If
you compare Child with Plant Wand and Buds with Babies , the eye-leaves of the first appear to be the
seed-children of the second, who resemble the child holding the plant. These eyes suggest insight as
much as sight, awareness and receptiveness to the cycle of rebirth, to movement out and movement in,
It’s an effect that reminds me of what Maleno Barretto said of the intrepid Margaret Mee (both
botanical artists), ‘She seems to be inside the plant’ . This suggests that art does 1 not distinguish us
from Nature, but rather is integral to it. Many of us who have known individual animals well
understand the absurdity of the idea that they don’t think. It’s the result of projecting our ways of
thinking onto creatures whose experience of the world is different.
But plants? There is increasing scientific evidence that plants, especially trees, do indeed think. The
interdependence of trees, for example, is such that they form something very like a community. Theirs
is a collectivity based on communication. It is extensive and applies to the entire tree: apparently their
more widely known capacity to warn each other of insect attack through the release of hormones
above ground, and to take defensive action, is complemented underground, partly through the
intermediary of fungi. Fungi are neither plant nor animal, but a form of life in between.2
1 Botanical Art & Artists.com About Margaret Mee (1909-1988) (Malu De Martino on Vimeo.) Walters has recently looked
at the work and thought of Mee, along with Simryn Gill and the filmmaker and gardener, Derek Jarman.
2 See my forthcoming book Thinking the Sculpture Garden (Routledge, Jan 2020) for further discussion of this research.
The book is inspired by, and revolves around, Tremenheere.