Artist Statement – Love letters to my paintings

Maria Lassnig said: “the pen is sister to the brush”.

There has to be truth in the painting. A truth I have to search for. So when I paint I’m in my body and looking for, but not hunting. If you hunt it will hide. If you hunt you’re following a scent or a track of something you already know. When I paint there is no track, or scent. It’s about being lost, then suddenly recognising something you’ve never seen before, that comes to meet you, is pleased you’re there, that knows you, is happy to reveal itself to you.

A Love Letter
In the new painting, with the warm golds and carmine lake, my nipple plugs the hole over your heart.
At first you had an apron of light. I ask: were you a man who worked with fire, a smelter of hearts, one who pumped bellows, breathing in life to form? Did you hammer with a hollow ringing tone those shoes of celestial horses, calling them back to earth? I see you as the farrier of my heart. I bring all my long-maned horses to you, you stroke their necks, calm them. You fashion shoes from iron dug from pits, and after plunging them into pails of water you meld them to my sole, my tissues burn with your kisses of fire.

In the painting you lay out for me a bed of broad tongues. They spread out from your navel, muscular antennae which I sense across the room when I come to sit with you. Your tongues are silent and attentive. There are things I don’t understand yet. Sometimes your tongues move slowly, from side to side; but mostly they’re quite still, resting heavily on the floor between us. They grow larger, swelling with a sweet blood and glistening with a deep redness; curling slightly at their edges with their blue veined muscularity. The tips come close to me and I become aroused, but I remain still. Sometimes your tongues seem to have a life of their own. They’re descended from sea-creatures, they taste of salt, I taste them on my lips. They wash in the mouth of the room like whales’ tongues in the immense seas of their bodies. A song rests on them. I pick it up.

We become two tongues in one mouth.
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A Love Letter
Awake again with the currents swirling in my belly, a dream called me to waken, a self portrait as Venus: Indian yellows and filmy oranges through trees, sunshine through water as I swim, my arms golden – young again – pulling me through translucent oily seas.

Are you going to lead me into the desert once again, and leave me there?
Will you mount me on the white horse of sacrifice, will I be Venus? Will you lead me towards the white trees, those smoking, deathly towers?

I’m going to catch the tails of all the running beasts which encircle your hut and my hands. I’ve taken my brush and drawn out the creatures of longing from my belly and my heart, and I’m setting them down alive. They’re moving under my hands as I paint, I can feel their warm skin between my legs, their breath against my neck. I’ve sat with them this morning, I’ve stroked their paws, gently set down their hooves, allowed them expression. I’m not waiting for them to die. I’ll watch over them as they return to sleep.

When I’m away from you I can be that happy girl you hold on your palm, alighting, joyous; I gaze into your face, light streaming from my smile; I sit on a yolky cushion, the pads of your palm; my wing cases fold into the blue.
And you’re happy too, in the painting: full of love and concern, your fear dissolved. There are trees behind you; they echo your outstretched palm, they give you shelter and roots.

In the dream I leave your house. You follow me, we talk, and laugh as we used to. You place your hands around the back of my head, your fingers massaging my well of dreams; my hair springs up between your fingers.

You give me kisses against the blows.
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To see more examples of my writing please go to my blog pages on this site.


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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, Doù 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,

like breathing.

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.