History and horror, crime and conflict, sci-fi and sexual transgression. Thus begins the attempt to define the art of Norman Catherine. The lexicon broadens: comic, violent, whimsical, playful, sly, satirical, brutish, anxious, at times even idealistic. And so it continues: vivid, brilliant, psychologically disconcerting, emotionally unforgiving, visually unforgettable. Yet the words themselves provide an incomplete collage of the thematic variIt is within the moral desolation of a jagged socio-political landscape, lodged between the bookends of apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa, that Catherine's art is most frequently located. In many respects, he epitomises the ultimate cynic. He eyeballs South Africa's heart of darkness with unblinking alienation. He conveys his vision through contorted forms performing macabre rites or dances of dandified revelry against the backdrop of a dissipating empire. Yet just at the point where he galvanises his viewers' sense of outrage so too does he assuage it through laughter. Like the puppeteer or the ventriloquist, he mediates the message through his marionettes. ations that have preoccupied Catherine's creative life. Influences attach themselves to his work like dust particles. Yet he also shakes them off with equal ease, leaving the viewer with the raw visceral impact of his imagery, striking in a place where a laugh and a gasp are indistinguishable.
For Norman Catherine, the crudity and sophistication of an artwork stem from 'the mixture of the primitive and the futuristic'. Through these imagined timeframes, Catherine accesses his wild dystopian vision of the present. His paintings and figures are darkly comic, bold and lurid in execution. 'There's an angst in my work that will never go away,' says Catherine. 'It was there before I knew anything about politics, really.' Catherine's qualification is critical. The fact that South Africa has changed has done little to soften his 'black side', but a mutation has...
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