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Katherine Reekie in front of two of her imagined still lives.

‘Stilled’ at The Stables

For the last 10 years, British surrealist Katherine Reekie has been painting imagined still lives. From now until early August she is exhibiting 35 of them in the gallery at The Stables Theatre. Erica Smith talked to the artist about these sculptures-that-don’t-exist.

Katherine Reekie is one of my favourite living artists. It’s an added bonus that she lives and works in Hastings. She is an accomplished painter and craftsperson. Whilst her work is always recognisable, she often explores different genres. She has recently exhibited a series of landscape paintings at Bodiam Castle and has six paintings in the Rye Society of Artists summer exhibition in August.

She has produced a series of drawings and paintings about Jack-in-the-Green, uses textiles and embroidery in some of her work and paints both realist and surrealist beach paintings (realist: collections of beach detritus; surrealist: re-imagined Great Masters). She often returns to explore still lives (realist: collections of charity shop ornaments; surrealist: imagined creatures and plants in bell jars).

This collection of imagined still lives start life as exercises in painting. Each one begins with composition, then Reekie builds on them with colour, form and detail. Some of the earlier works in this exhibition have been adapted so the initial vertical posts have become more like knitting needles. Earlier paintings include bindings which could be tape or rope, whilst more recent compositions depict wool, threads and beads.

Katherine Reekie, Composition with Cylinders, oil on canvas.

As well as being a challenge in making the unreal look real, these works explore gender. Whilst Reekie was brought up with no expectations to be ‘feminine’, she has always been aware of how society imposes limits on people. As a student at Camberwell School of Arts, Reekie showed talent as a sculptor but wasn’t attracted to making it – “sculpture at the time was big, heavy, dirty and monochrome and involved getting covered in plaster and dust – it seemed inherently masculine”.

Reekie is not religious, but fascinated by religious iconography. She is drawn to medieval sculptures which were painted in bright colours, and she’s fascinated by African sculpture which, like her paintings, often incorporate nails into the design.

Storage by Katherine Reekie. Small oil on canvas.

Many of her paintings of sculptures include binding – they explore self-oppression – a feminine expression of “I don’t want to take up too much room”. Sometimes there is an egg or eggs in the centre of the constructions. “I’ve been delving into the concept of what might make a piece of artwork feminine or male, and whether that matters.”

The painting on the right plays with the creation of special structures to protect precious things – valuable jewels – or fecundity. The shadows in Reekie’s paintings are never intended to be accurate. “My intention is not to depict reality but to nudge people to question and consider it.”

After college, Reekie trained as a carpenter and has always had an understanding of structure and engineering. This is balanced by an interest in craft. Alongside her paintings are items of exquisite enamelled jewellery. She has built structures out of coloured knitting needles to display the pieces – this is the only time that she has ever constructed three-dimensional objects that echo the forms in her paintings.

Stilled is on show until Saturday 6 August. It is a beautiful and coherent exhibition of very collectable – and extremely affordable – art (tiny paintings start at £100 and enamel jewellery at around £20). At The Stables Theatre and Art Gallery, The Bourne, Hastings, TN34 3BD. The gallery is open Mondays to Saturdays from 10.30am to 1pm and prior to performances.

You can see more of Katherine Reekie’s artwork on her website, and at the Rye Society of Artists summer show in August, while in October there will be a special exhibition of her bonfire paintings in The Old Town Tattoo Shop. Katherine is also an associate member of the Society of Women Artists and has four paintings in its September exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London.

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Posted 21:28 Sunday, Jun 19, 2022 In: Arts News

1 Comment

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  1. Anthony Hack

    Excellent write-up.

    Comment by Anthony Hack — Thursday, Jun 23, 2022 @ 15:16

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