Roger Cardinal: The Clarity of Mud 2005
to accompany the exhibition The Clarity of Mud at the West Dean Estate ( 4th International Symposium on Surrealism supported by AHRC Centre For Surrealism & it's Legacies).
“The Fauna and Flora of Surrealism are not to be avowed”, wrote Andre Breton in 1924, alluding to the “dangerous landscapes” into which the imagination might venture once the mind escapes the bondage pf the utilitarian sense-making and it’s rigid categories. Surrealism is nothing if not a refusal to submit to routine perception, a call to arms to the faculty of invention, which happily bursts through arbitrary confines of the everyday. It’s signal achievement, throughout the history of it’s image-making, has been to validate a perspective upon the Outlandish, the Exotic, the Monstrous and the Uncanny.
The art of Kathy Fox opens landscapes of unexpected conjuncture and bewilderment. Her imagery speaks confidently of transfiguration and marvelling. It revels in unprecedented unions which, freely improvised, establish knots of giddy incoherence which, little by little, are drawn into a taut fabric of plausibility, converting the monstrous into the delightful, and translating the uncanny (as Freud once did} into the familiar.
At first blush, her paintings and objects seem playful, even skittish; yet her expressions have the capacity to tug at our attention and insinuate a secondary and deeper meaning. Those speckled proliferations, shaggy pelts and artless constellations are the hieroglyphs of a fresh order of understanding, the revelation of something elemental that intellect could never envisage.
As if plucking a thread that leads from Ovid through Buffon to Max Ernst, Kathy’s work encompasses a Natural History whose thousand and one tales of metamorphosis, symbiosis and dissolution converge upon a central theme, namely: the latent harmony which binds all things and propels us, as humans, into intimate dialogue with non-human. Her provocative metaphors speak of the constancy of change and demonstrate, in tireless variation, the power of imagination to return us to that dimension of warmth and touch from which our daily delusions have alienated us.
Inside the studio, the artist uses a range of form-finding techniques, including frottage, often exploiting the random textures of melted wax. These modes of automatism are complemented by singular practices of immersion and contemplation, as when she steps down the riverbank at Shoreham or Cuckmere Haven to collect fresh water and mud, as well as grass, shells and tiny living organisms. These are the primary sources of her recent images, in which inchoate riverine mire shivers beneath her gaze before gradually resolving into patterns and shapes, brought to clarity through the thoughtful intervention of a sinuous line, or, as in the remarkable Last Touch, by the addition of a tiny collaged fragment. Kathy insists that the essence of her art lies in the waiting – for it takes time for meanings to surface from beneath the layers spread before her.
It is this patient waiting which determines the pace at which these strangely compelling works come closer, the longer we look at them.
Her work is informed by Surrealism, African and Greek mythology and her readings in prehistory