• ArtW

In Conversation with Catherine Goodman

Catherine Goodman's vibrant, thoughtful and energetic paintings are conversations between her diverse process that includes considering poetry, light, meditation, the tale of the world's first female presence, Eve.


Tiger Girl (2018), Oil on canvas, Catherine Goodman


To hear the audio version of the interview click here.


Marjorie Martay–


I'm delighted today to be talking to Catherine Goodman, an exceptional English artists who has studios in London and Somerset. Catherine studied at Queens College in London and Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts. She won the Royal Academy Gold Medal in 1997 and the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery in 2002. She had a solo exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in 2014 "Portraits from Life." Catherine, could you talk a little about some of the portraits that were part of the exhibit? In fact, I think you even did the film director Stephen Frears.


Catherine Goodman–

Yes, I'll happily talk about that. So everyone I painted in that show were friends and people who were a part of my life already because I had to ask quite a lot of them. I had asked them for quite a few sittings. The way I was working at the time... I was very focused on what painting a portrait from life meant– so how the interaction in the meetings and rhythm of the sitting fed into the painting. I would ask my sisters to come at the same time every week, a bit like going to the shrink or something. They come for a couple of hours every week and whatever their mood, outlook, or atmosphere in the room was I assimilated into the paintings. So some of these paintings went on for a year or so. I painted a young war vet Harry Parker, who lost his legs in Afghanistan and he was a friend and a wonderful writer and painter. Then I painted Stephen who I had known for a long time from a breakfast club in Notting Hill. We used to hang out and drink coffee together. I'd always wanted to paint him. So that was a good opportunity. I painted Hannah Rothschild who is the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the National Gallery and a writer. I painted lots of people who are friends in London.

Marjorie Martay–


That's wonderful, and how many portraits were there?


Catherine Goodman–


I think there were about 22. I can't quite remember. They've all gone off to different homes so I don't have many more, but it was something I was doing anyway and the National Portrait Gallery I think had suggested that it would work as a show that looked at the whole kind of convention of not working from photographs, not from drawings, but just from life.


Marjorie Martay–


That's wonderful. You're also very well known for teaching as the artistic Director of the Prince's Drawing School appointed by the Royal Victorian Order. You even co-founded the Royal Drawing School with HRH, the Prince of Wales... That's amazing, what an accomplishment...and you were also a trustee of the National Gallery of London recently.


Work in Progress (2020), Oil on canvas, Catherine Goodman

Catherine Goodman–

I am the artist trustee now. It's a great privilege actually. There's always an artist on the board of the National Gallery and it was Dexter Dalwood before me and I can't remember who it was before that. But looking back, there has been some really wonderful artists, Bridget Riley, Howard Hodgkin, lots of really distinguished artists who've been on the board. So I feel very privileged.

Marjorie Martay–

Well, it's, it's a real honor, and knowing you, I'm not surprised. What was it like to be the Prince's Drawing School? I think it was from 2000 to 2007.


Catherine Goodman–

Now it's called the Royal Drawing School. The name changed a few years ago because the Prince was taking on more and more duties as he has to going forward. He suggested it as we became more independent, although he's still our Royal patron and very involved in the school. It's a fantastic place. It's in Shoreditch, East London. I started it with him really because for some reason, drawing was not being taught as part of the curriculum in art schools in the 1990s and early 2000s. It seemed like a very strange anomaly because all artists draw irrespective of what their medium is...that's how we think. Our ambition was always to keep it small and specialized. We have about a thousand students a week coming through now. I'm still involved as the founding artistic director and I oversee the curriculum and various other things. But broadly speaking, I'm in the studio these days.

Marjorie Martay–

That's great. Do you think the school has succeeded in accomplishing the mission?


Catherine Goodman–

I think it's an ongoing project. It certainly has succeeded. We have students from all over the world and in fact, during this shut down period we're in the process of converting all our courses into online courses. That's great because it means that people anywhere can access them. We're always like kind of just one part of an artist's education because what we try and do is give our students a sense of the tradition that figurative Western art has, where it's come from and where it's going. Obviously now all art to some extent is a reflection of where it's made. But also, we live in a much more international environment so the influences from Asia, Africa, and all over the world are now felt much more strongly in the Western Canon. It's been very interesting following that. Our students are much more conscious of diversity in that way which is exciting.


Work in Progress (2020), Oil on canvas, Catherine Goodman


Marjorie Martay–


It's so amazing what technology can do. It has transformed how we look at art and how we can study art online. It has brought things together globally so much more because of it.


Catherine Goodman–


It has. We have students in Australia now. We have students in Libya and then Texas–from all over that sign in and join in by getting up in the middle of the night to do a course. It's amazing really.


Marjorie Martay–


I think it's fantastic. It shows what the power of technology can do to change how we approach things like art. There's a really strong connection there.


Catherine Goodman–


I think it's going to change even more now having had this experience of lock down, because we've all discovered that we don't need to move around so much. I was just in my garden this morning, there was a linnet. I haven't seen a linnet in London since I was a child. It's quite extraordinary the way everybody's really appreciating how nature is taking hold again and that we miss listening to her. There's an invitation in that that's a big thing coming out of all of this time.


Work in Progress (2020), Oil on canvas, Catherine Goodman


Marjorie Martay–


Well you also have a very strong relationship to nature. It's intrinsic in who you are as a person and that is very evident in your work. You were invited to be the artist in residence at Hauser & Wirth Somerset from January to May of 2018. What was that experience like?


Catherine Goodman–


Oh, it's a wonderful place– Hauser & Wirth Somerset. It's an extraordinary kind of project, which I think is being mimicked and copied in many other places because it has a different function from just being an art gallery in the countryside. It has a community function as well as an educational function. It's a garden and a restaurant. It's a place that feeds people on many different levels and through different resources whether it's coming to look at the Pie Oudolf garden, eating at the Roth Bar, coming to look at the art in the gallery, or to buy things from the shop. It just fulfills different hungers in us. My relationship with them has continued since my residency but going there for those six months was really an eye-opener because certainly in the UK we haven't had anywhere like that before. There was this wonderful studio space, like all things Hauser & Wirth, it was very comfortable and well-resourced. They have more space than I could ever have wanted anywhere. It was a double-tiered studio with lots of light and space so that was fantastic. I made a body of work there, and then invited me to have a show following that which was about six months later. I think that's when I met you Marjorie, wasn't it?

Work in Progress (2020), Oil on canvas, Catherine Goodman


Marjorie Martay–


Yes, I was actually there. I could not believe the exhibit; it was fantastic. I completely agree with you about Hauser & Wirth Somerset, in fact, the whole organization is an amazing group of people to work with. I was fortunate enough to start "Women: We Create" London, our first trip, with Hauser & Wirth Somerset. That was when they had the amazing exhibit, "Unconscious Landscape." It was fabulous. The Durslade Farmhouse, the beautiful gardens, the people, and the education department– Debbie Hillyerd is an amazing woman. I loved working with them; they were just terrific. So let's talk about your wonderful exhibit "Eve" and what were you actually trying to accomplish in the paintings? From what I could see, these paintings express a coming of consciousness from childhood and you even had some pictures of drawings from your nieces there. What was the relevance of Eve in the story of the exhibit?


Catherine Goodman–


Firstly, it came out of the experience with the residency where I think leaving my busy and responsible life in London with the Drawing School and with the care-taking I do for several family members. I certainly was in a place where I had solitude and I felt free of responsibilities for a while. So there was kind of paradise of feeling to it. There's so many questions about the place of women, particularly in the painting world. Of course there have been some really wonderful women artists throughout history, but it's still a very live issue for all of us today and needs to be. The Eve figure with her vulnerability and also the way that she was blamed by history for everything seemed to me something that was worth addressing. The subject of that show emerged through stealth really. It wasn't something that I thought, "Oh, this is what I'm going to paint a series of pictures about." I realized as often happens with us artists, that this was what the show was about and it presented itself to me rather than me hardening the concept of it before. The idea of leaving a garden of Eden or leaving a childhood state and emerging as women into the world that we all live in is something that's ever present in our consciousnesses as women. We're always very aware of that. It never goes away–the vulnerable state. I don't know what you think Marjorie, but I'm more and more aware of how difficult it can be for women artists. I know that everyone will laugh at the moment and say, "Oh, but women artists, they've got it easy now." But it's not so much that it's a very fundamental question which stays hanging there for all our lives. Although it may be fashionable at the moment, I'm not sure really how much has changed... But I may be wrong.

Works in Progress (2020), Oil on canvas, Catherine Goodman


Marjorie Martay–


No, I think you're, you're absolutely right. In fact, that was the reason that I decided to create my non-profit Art W and advocate for women artists to bring recognition to a lot of women who were so exceptional and recently I formed "Women– We Create" which are actual experiential journeys. That's how I got to Hauser & Wirth...so it's very interesting how it's all connected and that's how you and I met. But I think doing this blog during this period is a great way we've been able to connect with everybody.


Catherine Goodman–


I think instinctively connection is the thing that we need. When the lockdown happened, a group of artist friends spread across the UK instinctively, we started zooming together and meditating every evening. We've been doing it every day since it started. It's gotten all of us through– one is in the North of Scotland, one's in Cornwall, they're all over the place. It's been so great just touching base once a day and saying, "how's your work going?"


Marjorie Martay–


I couldn't agree with you more. In fact, one of the things that I'm thinking about in the future is creating a global network of artists, but not just in the visual area, but across all disciplines.


Catherine Goodman–


Wouldn't that be wonderful?


Work in Progress (2020), Oil on canvas, Catherine Goodman

Marjorie Martay–


Right. I know. I might actually call you for some ideas because you're very good at pulling people together.

So talk to me a little about your visual language... how would you describe it? You've been so influenced by literature, film, music, drawing, light and pulling it all together. How does that manifest in your drawings as well as your paintings?

Catherine Goodman–


I'm very aware of the history of where we come from. Ever since I was kind of a teenager, I've been drawing from Italian art, French art. I've always used it as an amazing resource going right back to medieval Byzantine art and the power of a lot of that work. The fact that it was very early on in our history is something that completely nourishes me as an artist. So I think it's very important not to imitate it, but that you're feeding yourself with what you need and taking it forward. I think my work along with a lot of women's work is very instinctual. I draw in the landscape a lot and respond to a place with a kind of certain intensity. My drawing is a way of making a connection with a place. I tend to make multiple drawings in one place, and those drawings can take me a few hours or a few minutes. It depends on what happens, and then I take them back to the studio and they're almost like sound recordings or something. I often think it's a bit like musical composition. I feel like I have the sound of tractors moving in a landscape or I have different snippets through my drawings of a real experience somewhere and then the imagery grows out of that. Quite often as I'm working a new kind of experience or memory will come to me that I've forgotten. I think that's very exciting.

Work in Progress (2020), Oil on canvas, Catherine Goodman

Marjorie Martay–


You really do these spontaneous kind of drawings. You're in a particular landscape, you're doing the drawings as you're going along, and then you bring it back to the studio. Then you really do take a long time to develop the painting. For me, I noticed some of the paintings at "Eve" or even now some of what you're working on– you have a lot of things going on at the same time.


Catherine Goodman–


Yes, I do. I need to create an installation around me. I have a lot of these big canvases going on at the same time as you saw from the studio shots. It's almost as though I'm walking around the same landscape that I've made the drawings in and depending on the time of day, the light, my mood or which one's calling to me, I begin working. I have been practicing meditation for many years now and the sittings are like 25 to 30 minutes long. Quite often I just put my meditation timer on and I work on each painting for 25 or 30 minutes; I just go around in a circle so that's my working process really.


Marjorie Martay–


That's fascinating. It's a very meditative in the state.


Catherine Goodman–


Yes, I need to work in silence so I don't have music or the radio on or anything. Sure, I listen to those things in a break or in the car or whatever. It's my monk space in the studio is how I think of it.


Marjorie Martay–


But I also think what's so interesting about your work is your choice of colors and how they're so expressionistic. You have an energy to your mark– how you put it down and how it flows over really brings the whole painting together. I was just so drawn to it when I saw "Eve" but even seeing some of your new work... It's all very much like that.


Work in Progress (2020), Oil on canvas, Catherine Goodman


Catherine Goodman–


Yes. The work I'm making here is a real continuation of my "Eve" show because a lot of it is physically based in the same place as where I made those drawings. So I guess it feels like it's a continuation of that, but it's lovely to hear that. Thank you.


Marjorie Martay–


Well, I paint a little myself, so I find that when I look at certain work it really affects me. I'm surely not at your level Catherine, but it spurs me on and is very inspirational.


Catherine Goodman–


Thank you!


Marjorie Martay–


You're welcome. You deserve it. Talk to me about some of the writers, poets and filmmakers that might've influenced your work?


Catherine Goodman–

I don't know if you know Marjorie, but I'm half Russian. My mum is a Russian. She comes from a refugee family that left in the revolution. I was brought up in a very Russian household of food, culture and everything. Russian literature has been very important to me. The kind of great stuff, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, but also I love the poets, Akhmatova and Mandelstam, so they always feel like home to me somehow. The Russian filmmaker who died in the late seventies, Andrei Tarkovsky, is very important to me. I watch his films frequently and draw from them a lot. I've developed a class teaching my students to draw from film and we often work with Tarkovsky. So I'd say that was my home territory, but I read a lot of poetry. I read a lot of Mary Oliver, Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens. I think poetry is very akin– the poet and the painter are soulmates. We deal with the quiet and hidden things. So much of nature is explored most eloquently through poetry. Whether it's the kind of ancient Chinese poets who I love, or Alice Oswald, who's a contemporary poet– a friend and an amazing poet.

Marjorie Martay–


It's interesting... I curated this blog and have chosen a lot of the artists that either I've been associated with my Art W Salon that I've done in New York or through my travels with "Women– We Create" England and now to Berlin. It seems there's a very definite thread through all these women artists that I've chosen have been influenced by poets and use poetry as a jumping off place whether it's the title or the theme of the exhibit they're going to do. It's fascinating and I love it. Because of that, I'm going to get into poetry more. I think you're right..there is a very strong connection between poetry and painting.

Catherine Goodman–


There's an enormous amount of loneliness in being a creative artist in the studio and I don't mean that in a self-pitying way. You need to make friends with loneliness really, because I think the poet has to make friends with loneliness too. If artists think they're ignored, poets really have a hard time because quite often they're just making work, even publishing work and nobody's ever heard of them. They can be really great poets! I think we instinctively find people who are reflecting our reality and I have quite a few of my close friends who are poets. I feel lucky to have them.


Marjorie Martay–


Well, I think there is a similarity there– that poets are creating with words and you're creating with charcoal and paint.


Catherine Goodman–


Yes, but we're all searching for an image.


Marjorie Martay–


Exactly. And a voice. How have your travels influenced your work? You spent a lot of time in India, the Himalayas, and Tuscany. What has that done for you in terms of your imagery?


Oil on canvas, Catherine Goodman


Catherine Goodman–


I love light and like many painters, light is an important subject for me. In India, there's an added thing which is that creativity is very alive still in every level of life there. In every village, in every city, there's so much making going on everywhere. Although industrialization has come to India, the craftsmanship is still there at every level. I think as an artist, you can't fail to respond to that. I was watching the workman on the roads, painting the white lines that go down the middle of the road. I was watching them outside my studio in Manali in the Himalayas, and it was like they were doing calligraphy. Whereas in the West, there would just be some machine doing it. There's very much a sense that creativity is everywhere... Every human being decorates their houses, themselves, their jewelry or their clothes. It's just there with everybody. There's no standardization, which I think is exciting for the artist because there's so much possibility and freedom. Although fashion has its place in India, it's also so complex, so multifaceted. But you can kind of do your own thing which is exciting. Also, Tuscany...I think that's my love of Italian art, of seeing these paintings– Florentine and Venetian paintings. It's impossible not to go to Italy to see all that because it's some of the greatest art in the world, and it's the nearest to us. Not that England doesn't have wonderful art, but you can't go and see Piero della Francesca, Giotto or Ducio here.

Marjorie Martay–


Absolutely. I think we're drawn to that. Whenever I go to Italy, I have to see it all. I have to take it in almost like a sponge. So you recently were in Southern India. What was that experience like? You were there just before the lockdown.


Catherine Goodman–


I knew the news was coming or we all did. I've been going to this Ayurvedic place in Southern India where I've been making drawings over the last six years. I've been going for a neurological condition I have with one of my legs. It's not too serious. But it's a great treatment place. So I go there and have treatments in the morning and draw in the afternoon. I got to know this one acre of land incredibly well and one particular tree even. I was there for about 10 days, and I made a lot of drawings. I came back and then we almost immediately were put into lockdown in London. The drawings are surrounding me now in my studio. Because the experience was so intense and we're all in shock...we've never been in a situation where our freedom has been denied us before...But I've taken refuge in this piece of land in India where I was completely free. I was drawing there in the early morning until late as it was getting dark. I drew all through the different times of the day. As I look around my studio at the moment, I see a female figure is populating a lot of these landscapes in a sense of freedom. It's not like somebody else telling me what to do.


Marjorie Martay–


That's an amazing experience to have that while you were in India being in this beautiful acre called Karnatka. Do you agree?


Catherine Goodman–


Karnatka is the state in which it is...and yes!


Marjorie Martay–


Having that ability to feel free and not like what we are doing now which is in this sort of lockdown situation? How fabulous that you were able to make these incredible drawings and then bring them back to your studio and have that experience all over again.


Catherine Goodman–


I know, I feel very lucky. I was slightly cheating fate because I was on the last flight for a while out of Bangalore where I came from and lots of people got stuck there. I feel really lucky. My parents are in their nineties and I'm actually caring for them at night. So I work, I live with them and act as their caregiver at night. Then I get to the studio during the day. It would have been pretty hairy had I not gone back. I feel like it was good that I did.


Marjorie Martay–


Well, the universe was looking out after you! How are your parents doing?


Oil on canvas, Catherine Goodman


Catherine Goodman–


They're okay. My mom has Alzheimers and to be honest, I think she doesn't really understand what's going on. She knows something's not right because she doesn't see her grandchildren and nobody's around except for me so she's confused... I think a bit anxious, but she's okay. She's a wonderful person. My dad is bed bound, but he has movies. So he's the movie buff. We talk a lot about movies. He taught me all I know about them.


Marjorie Martay–


It's so interesting how our parents and grandparents have such an effect on us and who we are as individuals. It's a thread of our genes really that creates who we are as people. With all this freedom that you have within your studio and the freedom you had in India, but also the responsibility you have with your parents, how are you dealing with all of it? How are you juggling working during the day and then dealing with them at night? That must be very

difficult.


Catherine Goodman–


It's okay. I think we're so lucky having a creative life because we've always got somewhere to put all those feelings with everything going on. We have a conduit and a channel for them. I've had some tricky days, but on the whole, I am feeling incredibly lucky. I'm really aware of, particularly in London, there's some people having a really horrible time. It's so interesting.


Work in Progress (2020), Oil on canvas, Catherine Goodman


Marjorie Martay–

I've had a lot of discussions with some of my friends and many of them because they don't have a focus. They are finding it extremely difficult. To be very honest, it's one of the reasons I decided to do this blog because I thought, "wow, that's a good way to connect with all these amazing women artists in different mediums." I've had these great conversations and it's been a wonderful way to connect everybody, but also to help me of course. I look back at this period, and it has been fascinating so far.

Catherine Goodman–


You know you might not have done it. Actually I'm sure you would have done it. It just might've taken much longer. I think it's forced us into some really creative decisions hasn't it.


Marjorie Martay–


That's very definitely true. In working with Sara, it's been wonderful because I think she's also been very inspired by all these amazing women artists. She's even mentioned to me now that she's thinking of getting an MFA in a multi-disciplinary area, looking at how to bring her writing and her art all together. I think it's fantastic.


Catherine Goodman–


Do it Sara!


Marjorie Martay–


My point is that we can be inspired by hearing people's voices and having them talk about what they're doing and how they're dealing with the crisis. But more importantly, drawing from the past, working in the present and then going into the future, considering what we're all going to be doing next.


Oil on canvas, Catherine Goodman


Catherine Goodman–


I think so often people have to live with different constraints. I've also been reading a lot of Hemingway and about war situations. I've been reading "Love in the Time of Cholera" that Gabriel Garcia Marquez book. Have you read that?


Marjorie Martay–


No, I haven't, but I will.


Catherine Goodman–


It's the most wonderful book and it's just so beautiful. It's really good on an audio book.


Marjorie Martay–


I love that because I love to hear the voice and the intonation. So what's next for you, what are you going to do with all these incredible paintings and drawings?


Catherine Goodman–


I don't a have show lined up immediately because I had two big shows last year and I wanted to have time in the studio to work. It's really important not to have a show that you're working towards sometimes. I've got a sort of plan for next year that I'm going to show at Boughton House which is this beautiful big stately home in Northamptonshire. So I may show these paintings there or I might do another show with Hauser & Wirth or Marlborough Gallery... just see how everything turns out when we can actually start showing exhibits again.


Marjorie Martay–


Well, I have to say that I thought your show in New York at Marlborough was fabulous. I was just so impressed. I hope it was a successful show for you.


Catherine Goodman–


Yes, it was, it was good. It was strange. I've never shown in New York before. The paintings looked a little out of context for me, but it was good. It was very exciting to show in New York anyway. That's where we all want to be.



Oil on canvas, Catherine Goodman


Marjorie Martay–


Your paintings commanded the space extremely well.


Catherine Goodman–


It was a challenging space I have to say. It was very big and slightly like something out of the 1980s.


Marjorie Martay–


Yes, I know what you're saying. But your paintings were so impactful that they jumped out at you. You felt like you were part of the landscape... the way you involve the nudes, the body with the landscape together. The whole thing just worked. It was beautiful.


Catherine Goodman–


Thank you. I agree!


Marjorie Martay–


I want to end by just saying it's been wonderful today to have this visit with you by phone. I would love to see you again in England when I come back.


Catherine Goodman–


Come for a studio visit when you're back! It's been a real pleasure talking to you today.


Marjorie Martay–


Well, I just want you to know that I'm just so impressed by your beautiful work and what you've been able to accomplish over these years and working with children and students globally, bringing all that together. I think that's been amazing– and seeing the spontaneity of your drawings contrasted to the slower tempo of your impasto paintings. I love that. You have really unlocked a world of imagination with your genuine relationship to the landscape and people, it's phenomenal.

Work in Progress (2020), Oil on canvas, Catherine Goodman


Catherine Goodman–


Oh, thank you so much. That's so generous.


Marjorie Martay–


I hope you have continued success, Catherine, and I look forward to seeing this exhibition in that wonderful palace if that's where it ends up.


Catherine Goodman–


I'll definitely invite you, but anyway, I hope that I see you before then!

To see more of Catherine Goodman's work:

https://www.catherinegoodman.co.uk/


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