Norman Catherine Retrospective Exhibition

by Andries Loots
14 June 2004
Regarding South Africa art history there were always artists who excelled at their work due to various reasons,  sometimes their unique style left a lasting impression on collectors and Galleries,  there were the ones noted for their controversial personalities and then there were the real geniuses like Norman Catherine whose career spans over 4 decades. An exhibition surveying his work over this period, is long overdue.

Norman Catherine was born in 1949 is East London, Eastern Cape where he grew up and spent most of his childhood. After finishing his studies at East London Technical College in 1968 he had his first solo Exhibition at the Durban Art Gallery in 1969. In 1970 he lived and worked in Pretoria where he met the late Prof. Walter Battiss. Back in East London he worked as an apprentice sign writer, during this time he printed his first silkscreen editions. It was however not until 1972 that Norman ventured into a fulltime art career with a solo exhibition at the Goodman Gallery in the then Hyde Park Shopping Centre.
In 1973 Norman started working on the Fook Island concept with Prof. Walter Battiss. The project involved printing of Fook money, Fook postal stamps, Fook passports,  Fook alphabet and language,  Fook music,  Fook food and it evolved into a Fookian lifestyle with Battiss and Norman being the Kings of the Fook Empire. 
Norman Catherine
Now and Then
In 1975 Norman's work was included in the Art 6' 75  Basel, Switzerland exhibition as well as the Fook Exhibition at the Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg. This was followed up with Art 7' 76 Basel, Switzerland and an exhibition at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg in 1976. In 1977 Norman travelled abroad to the USA and Europe for the first time. This was the beginning of a long career including International Exhibitions in various Galleries around the world.

It is however sad to say that his work was never exhibited to his full potential at the height of his creativity during the difficult time of apartheid with sanctions and cultural boycotts preventing exhibitions originating from South Africa. Normans frustration manifests strongly in his work from this period. Young artists engaged in resistance art out off protest and after the sanctions were lifted many of them became instant success stories. Artist's like Norman who struggled during his early career because of the lack of International exposure were forgotten and had to fend for themselves.  Although always supported by the Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg,  he realized that he had to do things for himself if he wanted the recognition he deserves. This long road started with the launch of a catalogue rezoné " Norman Catherine " in 2000, which Norman and his wife Janet designed and put together. This effort has now culminated in a touring retrospective exhibition entitled "Norman Catherine Now and Then" cosponsored by the City of Tshwane,  Alliance Française,  République Française, Institut Française d'Afrique du Sud and the Goodman Gallery.
The exhibition will open at the Pretoria Art Museum on the 4th August 2004 and finish at the Johannesburg Art Gallery in March 2006, and will provide collectors the opportunity to view some of the earliest works done by the artist  including edition works on paper, bronze sculpture, wooden sculpture, resin sculpture, paintings, drawings and mixed media artworks. 
Exhibition Schedule :
Pretoria Art Museum 4 August - 3 October 2004
Oliewenhuis Art Museum, Bloemfontein November - December 2004
Sasol Art Museum, Stellenbosch February - March 2005
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum, PE April - May 2005
Durban Art Gallery June - August 2005
Polokwane Art Gallery September - October 2005
Johannesburg Art Gallery December 2005 - March 2006
Ref : Norman Catherine,  Goodman Gallery Editions, 2000,  ISBN 0620 24970 6
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