Artist Statement – Love letters to my paintings

Here is some recent writing – by two poets I admire very much – about my work:

Kate Walters’ startling images go straight from the eye to whatever emotional nexus it is that primes and enriches our inner lives. Their visionary quality is evident in both form and impulse; they are compelling for what seems a wholly instinctive fusion of the visceral with the lyrical. And they are confrontational, presenting as encounters from dream just as dream relates to those deep quotidian mysteries to which we are most often blind.
David Harsent

Madonna della Salute

The golds on the legs of choughs streaking across the Dolomites or lemon groves exhaling in early evening, a field candled with buttercups and soft-breathing cows, gold on book spines and the ichor of a final sunshaft as towering cumulonimbus clouds thicken over the canal: all of these running into the rare quality of how you paint her tears.
Karl O’Hanlon

When I was in Anchor Studio (part of the Borlase Smart John Wells Trust) in December 2023 Marie-Claire Hamon came to visit me. This is what she wrote, afterwards…
The main reason for visiting Kate was her opening her temporary studio space at Anchor studios to show us the work she has been making for her upcoming show with the Arusha gallery in London. I stepped into the studio, Kate was catching up with eating her breakfast at 12.30 pm, she disciplines herself not to eat before that time in the morning. She swiftly finished eating, as we engaged with what really mattered, her work. Oh my, what energy, a sprawl of large canvases was scattered on easels and on the walls, leaning against other canvases on the floor. The large space was full. It was alive. It felt like a rhythmic march, none of the work settled where it was, it was all interchangeable, they were all related, writhing forms, squirming, agitated, reaching out, recoiling in themselves, then losing it in sheer abandon to the energy of eros, the marks and wildness of colour. A storm had blown through the studio, the canvases had caught it as it swirled through the head of the artist, as I watched I was caught up in the intensity of the colour and gesture left suspended in mid air on every piece. The paintings are raw, erotic, the colour is at times garish, German expressionism comes to mind, there is no holding back, no politeness, no tastefulness, just pure interjection and ejaculations of the subconscious mind and soul. The conversation with Kate is always intense, totally assured of her work and its direction, there is a feeling of total faith in herself and her painting which becomes contagious in her presence. When she recounts her experience, she shoots from the hip, and you can hear snakes hissing around her studio as they dance to her tune and wait to be regularly summoned into power. There is a menagerie of spirit animals creeping around her space but the horse, her lover, remains steadfastly her favourite as it embodies her relationship with life, death, sex and the subconscious. I left the studio feeling inspired and energized.

A few dasy later, Estelle th

A Love Letter to my painting.

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.

A Love Letter to Him

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. 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.

To see more examples of my writing please go to my blog pages on this site.


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:


The Tree of Thought: The Art of Kate Walters by Professor Penny Florence

 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 & 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.