Artist profile: Cathy Frawley

Artist Cathy Frawley’s recent exhibition, Abstract Fields, was a personal response to a range of landscapes, including urban landscapes, seascapes or natural landscapes. Optimistic and charged with colour, Cathy’s paintings provide a positive emotional effect, offering respite from the more challenging aspects of life.

Below Cathy expands on her work and practice:



What is your exhibition about and what inspired this body of work?

Abstract Fields is a personal interpretation of a range of landscapes including urban landscapes, seascapes or natural landscapes. Through painting I conceptualise my experience of landscape, abstracting it to represent its essence in colour and shape.

The paintings are not a response to specific landscapes but are more about interpreting and abstracting the landscape through memory or imagination. However there is no fixed interpretation to the work, rather I hope the viewer will interpret the work in their own way. Perhaps a work might remind them of their own experience of the beach for example.

There is evidence of making in the textual quality of paint, which has been applied loosely with complementary colours breaking through layers. The painting surface holds all the marks and gestures as traces of the painting process.

The work is intended to be optimistic and have a positive emotional affect, offering respite from the more challenging aspect of life.

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  • Where did your interest in painting begin?

 From about the age of 6 years old I decided that I wanted to be an artist. Later in primary school I was interested in Op Art. My interest in art continued into high school. At 20 years old I enrolled in the South Australian School of Art, majoring in painting. My graduate work included some very large abstract pieces based on my experience of a building and its surrounds I traveled past each day. After art school I went back to do a Graduate Diploma in Education to become a secondary art teacher. I worked as a secondary art teacher for twenty years. While teaching I found I didn’t have the time or motivation to paint or draw, until I enrolled part-time at Adelaide Central School of Art (ACSA). After a couple of years studying at night I decided to leave teaching and enrol full-time at ACSA. ACSA was significant in renewing my interest in painting. I particularly enjoyed Abstract Painting and being challenged conceptually. My graduate work at ACSA included a series of large abstract paintings, which were interpretations of my local landscape.

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  • You say you ‘conceptualise your experience of landscape through your painting works, abstracting it to represent its essence in colour and shape.’ Which landscapes have made a particular impression on you in your life? Why?

 My local landscape has made an impression on me over the years. I have spent a lot of time walking from home, along Fourth Creek up to Morialta Falls and back again. This repeated experience allowed me to notice things I wouldn’t necessarily notice before such as the yellow line on the side of the road, which demanded my attention. Other landscapes I have interest in are those, which I can repeatedly visit for example the foreshore of Semaphore, where my son lives with his family.

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  • Does painting the landscape in a literal fashion interest you?

I have painted the landscape literally in the past. My focus was still on interpreting the landscape by painting its atmospheric qualities. In the past I was particularly interested in cloudscapes for their emotive effect. At present I am more interested in interpreting the landscape abstractly, allowing it to act as a mnemonic.

  • How long have you been a practising artist?

 I graduated from ACSA in 2009. I’ve been practising as an artist for 9 years. My practice initially involved painting, drawing, photography and video. In 2011 – 2014 I completed a Master of Education (Research). At the moment I am enjoying the focus I have on abstract painting.

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  • What has influenced your artistic direction? Has there been any significant moments in your life, or major artistic influences?

 I find I am heavily influenced by my experience of day-to-day life. Significant influences have also been my study at ACSA, including abstract painting, my conceptual development and my research of abstract artist Richard Diebenkorn.

  • What are you working on next and what are you looking forward to?

 I am continuing to interpret my experience of the landscape through abstract painting. I am experimenting with works on paper using a range of media including watercolour, gouache, acrylic, gesso and collage. I am also looking forward to experimenting with drawing media for example charcoal and gesso.  Another interest I have is to incorporate abstracted sections of the built environment with the abstracted landscape.

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