‘Artists are advised to paint what they know, but brave ones like Kate Walters explore the unknown. The watercolour drawings in her latest solo show ‘Seeing the Shadow’ (Goldfish to 21 November) – a response to the recent loss of a friend – touch on the mysteries of life and death. Drawings such as Looking to Be Born and Old Age view the journey from opposite ends, but in both the fragile figures hand from cords as if suspended in amniotic fluid.
In her earlier, more linear drawings Walters used watercolour as one of an experimental mix of media; here she uses it alone and in a single colour, red. For Walters, as for Bacon, red best expressed human warmth and intimacy, also danger. Watercolour, meanwhile, heightens the impression of images begotten and not made. But although in the surrealist tradition, Walters’s drawings are far from automatic. The flow of colour is carefully controlled – even the drips are structural, contributing the perpendicular cords from which figures hang or the Giacometti like armatures on which others are supported. Horizontal and vertical drips occasionally cross, suggesting a Mondrian grid or forming a crucifix. In Figure Exposed, a female figure seems to hang from a cross: In Trauer two figures lift another, enveloped in cloud, off a crossbar – it could be a deposition or a resurrection.
Walters’s imagery walks the line between pain and hope. The wing shapes that recur in several drawings incline us towards the latter, but are they really wings? In Girl with clouds or shields, apparently not. It’s this sense of trembling on the brink of transformation that lends Walter’s shadowy forms psychological substance. Besides them, Tracey Emin’s drawings look like idle scratching, while Marlene Dumas’s bravura watercolours look slick.’