Around 17,300 years ago, a group of Palaeolithic hunters ventured into a cave system in what is now South western France. Journeying deep into its dark, womb-like passages they eventually arrived at a space where, by the light of a feeble, guttering flame, they began to paint. The motivation for these works has forever disappeared into the mists of time, but their location suggests that the aesthetic functions that have come to inform and surround the making of art had little influence on their production. Instead they seem to have had a very different purpose and intention, emerging from that space between waking and sleeping, dream and reality; the outcome of a magical, shamanistic ritual that resulted in the cave walls being covered with dazzling, images of horses, deer, giant oxen, and the hunters themselves, in a visual re-ordering of the untamed world outside the cave’s darkness.
Kate Walters’ paintings are also concerned with the interaction of the animal and human worlds; depicting in raw and graphic immediacy a relationship that is both intimate and nurturing. Deer, horses and female figures are shown co-existing in an almost primeval state of mutual, interconnected harmony. In their iconography of nurture and loving grace human and animal bodies merge and combine, as the female subjects of these works take on and adopt the character of their animal guides: the watchfulness and truth of the deer, the protection and nurture of the horse. In this new world, there is no separation between human and animal, only a porous tissue of skin that both delineates and dissolves individual boundaries.
Like the work of other shamanic artists, Walters’ paintings give form to an unseen world that is invisible to all but the most sensitive spirit. Her role as an artist is not to re-present the visible, but to capture the fleeting glimpses that she is given in visions and dreams of another reality; of the invisible matrix that connects all living things. For these are not the Freudian dreams that dredge the subconscious for suppressed feelings, but those messengers from beyond that pierce the portals of sleep with their prophetic insights.
Reflecting the ancient tradition of the Sacred Feminine, Walters’ paintings are spaces of nurture, birthing pools in which her insights are embodied. The figures of her deer, horses and human subjects emerging into pools of deep red paint like dreams bringing to vivid life the unconscious void of sleep. Their features delicately realised through dynamic lines and areas of subtle light to provide tantalizing glimpses of a reality that is both insubstantial and mysterious. Occasionally the figures are tethered by lines that flow out to the picture edges, umbilical cords of light supporting these visions of truth as they are brought to birth in the darkness of our unconscious, sleeping world. For an instant these gentle deer and horses are caught in our reality, their vision of beauty and love allowing us to transcend the death focussed gaze with which we humans gaze upon the world.
© Revd Dr Richard Davey