Louise Cattrell


Essay by Felicity Lunn for an exhibition of paintings and watercolours at Café Gallery, Southwalk, London

Sea and sky are consistently explored in Louise Cattrell's work. The large oils made in 1990 depict the passage of water, either flowing darkly between the sentry line of stumps in Ferry or winding as both stream and path in Plantation: Euachan. The sea in Ferry is as deliberately staged as the wisp of white fabric caught on the post, the whole creating a dramatic tableau, a single moment seized.

Plantation: Euachan is more ambivalent, the literal and the abstract merging in the layering of trees and in the indistinguishability of water and earth in the foreground. In the more recent oils water has given way to sky, which occupies most of the canvas in some and in others forms an infinite horizon from the mysterious meeting of sea and sky Ferry describes the passage of water;in these later paintings the composition leads the viewer to approach the edge of the hill or the side of a rock The source of drama, breaking through the clouds or silhouetting structures.

Louise Cattrell's paintings are about memory, not the recollection of a particular event or place but the process or remembering. It is only through the act of painting, the artist has
explained, that it is possible for her to become familiar with what is being painted. Her landscapes are largely isolated places which hover between the absence of people and the trace of a spiritual presence. In the most recent oils the technique has become tighter, the impasto of earlier works giving way to a smoother layering of the paint and restricted palette of blues and yellows.

The paintings are at once lyrical and intense, the technique focussing the viewer on their intangibility and the impression that place is memory. Although inspired by the artist's childhood in rural Scotland, her work avoids self-indulgence by sharing the very human sense of loss, of the inability to recapture the past straightforwardly.

Felicity Lunn 1991 copyright