“Creativity is just innate, it is intrinsic to who I am,” says Bellingen’s Cath Beynon. “My very earliest memories are of entertaining family and friends, becoming someone else. Or painting and cutting out shapes.”
Both the performing and fine arts have been a continuum in Cath’s life, serving to enrich, enable expression and at times heal. She is also a fierce advocate for the arts generally, particularly in the current political climate, with cuts to the arts sector coupled with the impact of Covid-19.
“I simply can’t imagine a world without art. What would that look like? The arts are so integral to the very definition of our experiences and explaining things from a different perspective. Art matters.”
Cath is one of five artists currently exhibiting at the Bellingen Federal Hotel. I spent an afternoon with Cath in her studio, watching her work and gaining an insight into the life of a true creative…
Cath can you describe your earliest creative pursuits?
All of my childhood was consumed with art in some form. I suppose it is performing that is most innate. As a child I would be forever dressing up and putting on small shows. Even now acting is my truly happy place.
When I was 12 years old my father and I enrolled in night art school at the local Tafe (then Technical College). This was my first experience of being ‘taught’ the skills of painting. Since this time I have always returned to painting in some form. My years of travel on leaving school were documented through painting- even on newspaper if that was all I had with me. I even had a small showing of my works in Prague in my early 20’s.
My creative life has always been shared between painting and the stage. In fact, I am probably most comfortable when performing. I would describe myself as a natural theatrical being. When I was 14 years old I started having private acting classes with renowned actress and drama teacher Julie Fuad in Armidale, performing with the local theatre group ‘Stage 1 Theatre’. Julie was an extraordinary teacher and mentor for me, a relationship that continued right up until Julie sadly died in 2011. One of my most cherished memories is of performing alongside Julie in the Vagina Monologues here in Bellingen.
How has your painting evolved over time?
My art has moved a lot over time. My earlier works were more expressionistic, experimenting with bolder colours and broader brushstrokes. Over time my style has become more contemporary impressionist, utilising an Alla Prima direct approach, where paint is applied wet on wet without letting earlier layers dry. This allows me to finish a piece in one sitting. Hence my productivity.
I have always moved from one body of work to the next, challenging myself by moving into new arenas. But one constant is that I paint things that I love, objects and shapes that are aesthetically beautiful. I mean I really don’t think you can paint too many pears in your life. Such a perfect, naturally beautiful shape.
How would you describe your current series ‘String’ currently exhibiting at the Federal Hotel?
This series was inspired to some level by an old masters exercise of painting pieces of fruit hanging from string. This exercise has been used over time at many art schools, including the Grand Central Atelier School in New York. I thought I would like to explore the theme, painting all sorts of objects with varying shapes hanging from string.
Until recently I have been exploring with the use of a lightbox with my still-life works, which affords intense contrasts with light and shadow. However for the ‘String’ series I’ve chosen a very strong direct light, which throws the most wonderful shadows. This play of light is inspiring me.
Has tuition played a big part in your evolution as an artist?
Local teacher Elisa Hall has provided me with invaluable skills and knowledge, based on the techniques of the old masters. This has provided me with such an appreciation of light and dark, something I strive to capture in my work. I’ve benefited from the teachings of many and am constantly learning. I don’t think that will ever stop.
What or who has influenced your work?
Giorgio Mirandi is a major influence. Every one of his paintings is painfully beautiful. He paints the same object(s) over and over, which is something that I have adopted.
Australian contemporary artist Lucy Culliton is also phenomenal. And of course Matisse and Henri Fantin-Latour, whose still life paintings were and remain sublime. However, the list of influencers could go on and on.
So to encapsulate, what do the arts mean to you?
You can’t have a world without art. What would the world be without music, fine arts and theatre? Unfortunately, most artists are unable to make a living from the arts and that situation has only been made worse by our current Federal Government’s policies and the effects of Covid. Art is as important as science and certainly as important as professional sport. However, the blinkered attitudes of many in Australia place footy on Sunday as our primary concern, which misrepresents so many Australian’s attitudes and values.
The ancient Greek Philosopher Plato pronounced, “Necessity is the mother of all invention.” A need or problem encourages creative pursuit to meet the need or solve the problem. This has been the case since the beginning of time. Just look at Australia’s indigenous population, who found ways to produce colour and used creativity to express their culture. Ancient cultures didn’t just make an urn for the olive oil. That urn would be painstakingly decorated.
For me personally, art is life. It is who I am and a place I can lose myself, becoming completely immersed in my work.
Cath’s ‘String’ series is showing at Bellingen Federal Hotel until November 31st.
To view Cath’s complete body of work CLICK HERE