Pub­lic works

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Visual Arts - Bron­wyn Wat­son

Katthy Cava­liere, Nest 2, 2010. Edi­tion 2/10. Col­lec­tion Wol­lon­gong Art Gallery. Do­nated by the es­tate of the artist, 2017. On dis­play in ex­hi­bi­tion New Ac­qui­si­tions Col­lec­tion, Wol­lon­gong Art Gallery, NSW, un­til June 4. In 2008, af­ter Katthy Cava­liere’s mother died of ovar­ian can­cer, the artist be­gan mak­ing work as a trib­ute. How­ever, less than three years af­ter her mother’s death, Cava­liere was her­self di­ag­nosed with the same can­cer. She died, aged 39, on Jan­uary 23, 2012.

One of Cava­liere’s last im­ages, Nest 2, is a poignant re­minder of her mother, Mara. The artist is pho­tographed sit­ting on a pile of her mother’s clothes, which she formed into a nest on Syd­ney’s Clovelly Beach, a place she and Mara would of­ten visit to chat and have fish and chips. Cava­liere, who is fac­ing the ocean, is naked ex­cept for her mother’s stock­ings, which are flap­ping in the wind, on her head.

Nest 2 is a re­cent ac­qui­si­tion of Wol­lon­gong Art Gallery on the NSW south coast, and it fea­tures in the ex­hi­bi­tion New Ac­qui­si­tions Col­lec­tion. When I visit the gallery, I am shown the pho­to­graph by Daniel Mudie Cun­ning­ham, head cu­ra­tor at Art­bank, an artist, and a friend of Cava­liere’s. He also cu­rated the 2015 ex­hi­bi­tion Katthy Cava­liere: Loved, which was hosted by Ho­bart’s Mu­seum of Old and New Art and Syd­ney’s Car­riage­works.

Cava­liere dealt with her grief over her mother’s death through her art, but that came to a halt when she had to deal with her own mor­tal­ity. She re­siliently fought the can­cer in pri­vate and only a few peo­ple knew she was sick, says Cun­ning­ham.

“She was an amaz­ingly gifted artist, and an un­der­rated one I think,” he says. “Her great abil­ity as an artist was to use avail­able ob­jects and avail­able con­di­tions. There was an emo­tional hon­esty to her work.”

Much of Cava­liere’s work was linked to her per­sonal history. She was born in Italy in 1972, an only child, and mi­grated to Australia with her par­ents when she was four.

As an artist she worked across a range of dis­ci­plines in­clud­ing pho­tog­ra­phy, per­for­mance and in­stal­la­tion. High­lights of her ca­reer in­cluded win­ning the He­len Lem­priere Trav­el­ling Art Schol­ar­ship in 2000, and study­ing un­der Marina Abramovic. But Cava­liere con­sid­ered the real high point to be 2011, when her video per­for­mance Loved was shown in her coun­try of ori­gin at the Venice Bi­en­nale.

Cun­ning­ham says the long­ing for a sense of home in the face of dis­place­ment was a re­cur­ring theme in her work, and that those feel­ings were dis­tilled into Nest 2.

“She was try­ing to make sense of why they had to move to Australia,” he says. “That mi­grant story, the di­as­pora, would come through in the way she was try­ing to make sense of that early child­hood story that felt like a lost dream.”

Nest 2 deals with the great isolation and lone­li­ness of life, says Cun­ning­ham. “It is that idea of look­ing out to the great un­known, that kind of me­di­a­tion of the sub­lime. I think the im­age works be­cause it speaks to a re­ally uni­ver­sal con­di­tion, as all Katthy’s work did, re­gard­less of the spe­cific cul­tural back­ground or spe­cific story of her mi­gra­tion to Australia, or her fam­ily’s story, or her own per­sonal strug­gles and trauma.”

Cun­ning­ham, be­lieves that Nest 2 is a clas­si­cally beau­ti­ful im­age. “It is al­most like the hour­glass shape of her body, there is some­thing Rube­nesque about it,” he says. “It’s also that sense of fa­mil­ial re­la­tion­ships, of com­fort, of parental care. Her mother’s DNA is still on the cloth­ing and Katthy is left with a beau­ti­ful, in­ti­mate trace of her. She is sit­ting on the nest and she’s star­ing out to sea, naked as the day she was born, won­der­ing what the fu­ture holds.

“But we know what re­ally hap­pened. The fu­ture was a fi­nite pe­riod of time and she joined her mother af­ter dy­ing the same way. It’s a kind of very epic, melan­choly and sad story, but pow­er­ful.”

Chro­mogenic colour print on sil­ver-based pa­per, 120cm x 88cm

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.