Cathy Wilkes

Daddy Resting

2009

Not on display

Artist
Cathy Wilkes born 1966
Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 205 x 255 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 2014
Reference
T14034

Summary

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.)

Further reading
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.

Arthur Goodwin
September 2018

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Display caption

Wilkes’s paintings do not reveal their subjects easily, and her method of painting – the result of deep introspection – creates images that encourage contemplation and reflection by the viewer. Daddy Resting is a painting of personal significance to Wilkes, directly referring to the death of her father. The feeling of loss that the painting communicates corresponds to one way in which Wilkes approaches painting: ‘For me the paintings are about awareness and openness… I know that my work shows love and sadness and human suffering: mine. In a sense the paintings offer both suffering and companionship to suffering.’

Gallery label, August 2018

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