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NOW AND THEN (article first published : 2005-06-28)

East London born Norman Catherine - one of South Africa's most prolific and self disciplined artists brings his exhibition, Now and Then, to the Durban Art Gallery opening on June 22.

His considerable repertoire of images of fantasy, humour, horror, satire and pain are brought to the public in this exhibition which covers approximately 35 years of his immense output.

Norman Catherine achieved his first successes in the early 1970s using the medium of airbrush, a technique generally employed by commercial artists. Delicate drawing and translucent pastel colours were used by the artist to create these early airbrush works of innocently 'erotic' amorphous creatures which earned the artist the questionable reputation of producing pornographic material.

By 1976, the earlier whimsical airbrush works had evolved from light-hearted fantasy into surrealistic and bizarre images of mutilation and torture: bandaged severed heads, pierced bodies, dissected animals. Although not overtly political, the undercurrent of torment was becoming increasingly evident in Catherine's work as he became more aware of the inequities of the status quo of Apartheid South Africa.

His lithographs of the early 80s broke through the ambivalence of the surrealistic works of the mid to late 70s to capture the hopelessness, frustration and absurdity of upholding an unjust social order. Catherine travelled on numerous occasions to the USA during this time, spending a year in New York and Los Angeles in 1984-1985. Having been exposed to the East Village art scene in New York, he felt the need to break away from the restrictions of airbrushing and embrace the use of found objects, oil paints and canvas again.

Always the social commentator through his use of savage satire and macabre black humour, Catherine camouflages foreboding, violence and horror with the use of brilliant primary colours which seduce and entice. Entry is free and all are welcome and the artist will be present at the opening on June 22 at 18h00.

Now and Then will be on show at the Durban Art Gallery from June 22 to August 21.




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