- Cathy Wilkes born 1966
- Oil paint on canvas
- Support: 205 x 255 mm
- Purchased 2014
Daddy Resting 2009 is a small landscape-format painting executed mostly in dark earth colours by the Northern Irish artist Cathy Wilkes. Against a black and brown ground, white, dark green and grey shapes in heavy brushstrokes suggest the figure of a person lying down. On the right-hand side, another possible figure in white sits or lies, framed by what resembles an architectural niche form painted in a more solid style. The diminutive size of the work necessitates close examination, and the richly textured surface and intricate brushstrokes further invite the viewer into the work. The forms appear vague, intangible and ghostly in the murky atmosphere of the thick, dark paint of the background.
Wilkes works in sculpture and installation as well as painting, at times including paintings within her larger-scale installations – on the wall, flat on a table, plinth or on the floor, and sometimes attached to other objects such as mannequins. Indeed, around 2003 she began producing painted works purely for inclusion in larger installations: ‘At that time I wasn’t considering them as paintings; they were compositions that allowed tangential, less-focused aspects to enter into my work as it drew together; they didn’t have their own cosmos.’ (Quoted in Aspen Art Museum 2011, p.2.) Daddy Resting, however, is part of a more recent, more traditional approach in Wilkes’s production, and was made to stand alone as a work in its own right. Rather than contributing to aspects of other works, paintings like Daddy Resting constitute self-contained, ‘more intuitive’ explorations (Wilkes quoted in Aspen Art Museum 2011, p.2). This, however, does not preclude the artist including them in installations after their production, and Daddy Resting was shown as a part of False 2011 at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh in 2011–12.
Wilkes’s emotional attachment to Daddy Resting is evidenced by her choice to keep hold of it, substituting it for another work when the Carnegie purchased False for its collection. The painting’s title suggests that this work is related to the death of her father. Autobiographical sources are a prominent strain running through Wilkes’s work, one of which she is aware: ‘I know that my work shows love and sadness and human suffering: mine.’ (Quoted in Aspen Art Museum 2011, p.2.) The emotional impact of this small painting is heightened by the intimacy of encountering it in the gallery, and the exploration of its mysterious, barely legible forms makes it a site of emotional contemplation, not only for the artist but also the viewer. Wilkes sees this as the primary experience of viewing her work: ‘I wouldn’t be able to say if it’s legible. The relationship is only between myself and the painting: that’s what you’re looking at.’ (Quoted in Aspen Art Museum 2011, p.5.)
Will Bradley, ‘Quiet Radical’, Untitled, Summer 2001, pp.4–6.
Cathy Wilkes, exhibition catalogue, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh 2011.
Cathy Wilkes, exhibition catalogue, Aspen Art Museum, Aspen 2011.
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