Whilst many of us have struggled to stay creative over the last six months, American artist Katherine Fraser has found comfort in picking up a brush and rediscovering the physical joy of painting once again.
Her latest oil on canvas series, Alone Together, is much like her earlier works: almost autobiographical and revealing some of her lived experiences and emotions. But these latest paintings, made under quarantine, are probably her most vulnerable yet, as we see Katherine's interpretation of a world facing unprecedented times.
On show at Paradigm Gallery in Philadelphia from 25 September, the featured characters in Alone Together are fantastical, tethered by human emotion and Katherine's mythology. The imagery of boats, water, and rain are all direct references to the artist's childhood and a recurring cat is a metaphor for how she views her creativity, as something akin to nature, which "can be harnessed but never controlled".
Under lockdown and faced with a seemingly unlimited time to paint, Katherine found herself questioning what meaning art could have for herself and others during such a difficult time. "By ultimately relinquishing the burden of defending art's purpose, and leaning into her relationship to it, she experienced newfound trust in the process and deeper satisfaction in the simultaneous act of creation and communication," explains the gallery.
Looking more closely at her process, Katherine will initially sketch the works, but rarely does she have the entire composition planned out before she begins painting. She takes time to decide the stories behind her characters and by doing so, puts herself in a dialogue with the work; actively making decisions, but also allowing herself to "quietly listen to what the paintings may need". The resulting paintings are full of complex, human emotion – from hope to despair to humour, grief, and love.
Through this new series, Katherine shows us that by being flexible and open, we can find moments of beauty, vulnerability, and harmony. You could say that during a historically uncertain time, Alone Together invites all of us to be more present and empathetic towards ourselves and others. "I paint out of my sincere desire to respect, express, and share the tender qualities that unite us. Compassionately and with a generous heart, I seek to portray our continual need to reckon expectations with truth, and the struggles we endure to feel satisfaction with our choices. My goal is not just to make aesthetically beautiful paintings, but to create works that touch and resonate with the complexity of real-world experience," Katherine says.
Alone Together by Katherine Fraser opens at the Paradigm Gallery in Philadelphia on 25 September and runs until 17 October 2020.