DRAWN FROM LIFE
John K. Grande
Representing the "real" in art can actually be a more exacting and complex process than the use of pure abstract motifs. Drawing from reality involves recognizing the illusionary aspects of the so-called reality an artist seeks to depict. The process involves recognizing the illusory nature of life itself. Caught up in this visual vortex of representation, the artist must intuitively reform and restructure what he or she sees. The simple device of drawing establishes a dynamic and temporal process of identification and reification that goes beyond simple communication of visual effect. The result is no longer entirely real at all, but instead an admixture of imagery and intimation. Starting with reality as the modus vivendi, the artist creates unique artworks that in and of themselves constitute a reality that supersedes the original subject. Shirley Katz's contemporary drawings are less distanced and more natural as artistic process than the more aesthetically hide bound images and objects created and produced for the contemporary artworld because they are so personal. Sometimes magical, surreal and childlike, othertimes dark, foreboding and penetrating, Shirley Katz' drawings above all, have an intensity. These drawings of people and events, culled from memory and reality, are screened through the filter of Katz's persona to become unique and original works on paper. For Shirley Katz the drawing is the focus and final work, not a way station to some greater project or realization. The individual or collective figure subject is pictorially compressed, captured on paper. These configurations of personal psychology, embroidered in time and space, are unusual because the human subject and figure portrait, for Katz, ultimately becomes an expression of not just one subject, but a universal embodiment of the human condition.
When she became a professional artist in 1979, the monotypes and mixed media pieces Shirley Katz produced were inventive reflections that illustrated ephemeral experiences and memories of childhood. Yet these colourful artworks often had a nightmarish quality, as if others events and experiences were implicit in the atmosphere and subject. More has, or will, take place than meets the eye. The Birthday Girl has a girl with long blond hair in a pinkish birthday dress. The initial impression of innocence embodied in the child's face illuminated by the glow of candles, is offset by a sinister and foreboding background atmosphere. There is a sentiment of loneliness, as if this child is carrying a heavier burden at this early age than she should. Another version of this work shows the girl in a room. There is a window with a landscape view. The exterior view does not offer a chance of escape or revelation. It is just there.