Anna Miles Gallery


Mr Plimsoll

20/07/24 — 03/08/24

Cat Fooks’ quizzical interest in questions of levity informs the title of her new exhibition. Mr Plimsoll refers to Samuel Plimsoll, a C19th British politician and social reformer who campaigned against the loss of ships and crews due to vessel overloading. The ‘Plimsoll line’, introduced in 1876 and still in worldwide use today, is a mark on a ship’s side that indicates the maximum depth it may be immersed when fully loaded. Fooks’ own vessels are often seriously overloaded. Mr Plimsoll’s attention to buoyancy resonated with her experience of submerging objects in copious quantities of paint.

Fooks’ painterly epiphany came almost two decades ago during an extended stay in Guatemala. Entranced by the lush crust of shiny enamel house paint built-up around facades and interiors as a result of the perennial quest to refresh, recycle and improve, she turned to coating as a modus operandi. Fooks has considerable skills as a colourist. Her ability to wrangle an ambitious palette of shrieking yellows and purples, pastel turquoise, lime and silver, is unquestionable, but it is the instinct for viscous materiality that most defines the eye-pummelling impact of her output.

Various marine analogies might be advanced for the method she uses. Like the oyster, Fooks smothers a selection of the discarded grit of the world until it acquires a glossier garb. However, the results of her labours most closely resemble rumpled, tenacious barnacle encrustations.

Historically the function of the frame of a painting has been to demarcate the space of the art work from the space of the world. In contrast, Fooks’ flagrant treatment of the frame reflects her appreciation for the porosity of life and art. Recently Fooks has expanded the surface incident of her frames with rolled and cut additions made of moulding paste. Unlike the monochrome approach that imparts a kind of visual democracy in other parts of her paintings, these latest embellishments are ungainly, hierarchical impositions crowded at the top of the frames. Lime Jelly Glass for instance is headlined by a frilly hand-built entablature. Along the top of In the Post Office just before Christmas, an ocean liner rules the waves. Fooks applies further lustre to this nautical topknot by unevenly spray painting it silver through chair caning.

According to American painter, Katherine Bradford, “An artist’s mind needs to be freed up. You have to be able to tap into whimsy, nonsense, the illogical.” For Fooks, the illogical and neurological are interchangeable. Her illusionistic basket weave boat is pure, delightful absurdity. Fooks extolls imbalance, misfiring and impropriety as worthy subjects of our scrutiny. In the paradoxical submerged yet buoyant aesthetic world she summons, gilding the lily is essential.

Cat Fooks was born in Kirikiriroa Hamilton in 1976. She graduated with a Bachelor of Visual Communication majoring in Painting from Unitec Te Whare Wananga o Wairaka in 1999. Her first solo exhibition, Pleasant St, was at Anna Miles Gallery in 2016. Recent exhibitions include Deadweight Loss: The Value of Making, Objectspace, 2020; Cake by the Ocean, Ramp Gallery, Wintec Te Pūkenga, 2022; Howling Cat, Viewfinder Whakatū Nelson, 2022; Terebella, Anna Miles Gallery, 2023; and Living Room, Objectspace Miles Warren Gallery, Ōtautahi Christchurch.

Mr Plimsoll, 2024
Oil and mixed media on board, 315 x 420mm

The Paradise Eater, 2024
Oil and mixed media on board, 275 x 325mm

Iron Butterfly, 2024
Oil and mixed media on board, 415 x 380mm

Long Otto, 2024
Oil and mixed media on board, 315 x 330mm

Bent Pyramids, 2024
Oil and mixed media on board, 440 x 560mm

Beef and Burgundy, 2024
Oil and mixed media on board, 315 x 425mm

In the Post Office just before Christmas, 2024
Oil and mixed media on board, 430 x 450mm

Moorish Idol, 2024
Oil and mixed media on board, 295 x 360mm

Dolly Varden, 2024
Oil and mixed media on board, 340 x 435mm

Lime Jelly Glass, 2024
Oil and mixed media on board, 280 x 270mm