Born in 1990 in Montreal, Canada, multidisciplinary artist Catherine Morin started her career in Visual Art as a trained photographer, before finding her true passion in painting in 2010 and devoting herself to it ever since. Influenced by her upbringing in the suburbs of Montreal, Catherine’s work addresses the themes of social class, culture, and identity with a deep sensitivity to the human condition. Since 2022, Catherine is represented by Wishbone gallery, Montreal, and is currently planning for her third solo exhibition in 2024.
In our interview we spoke with the artist about the influence of her upbringing on her practice, the beauty of relying to your brush and yourself, and why patience is one of the key ingredients to pursue a career in the visual arts. Enjoy!
By Nina Seidel
Hello Catherine, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Some people might not be familiar with you and your work, so could you please shortly talk about yourself and about what you do?
My name is Catherine Morin and I am an interdisciplinary artist born in Montreal in 1990. I moved to the suburbs when I was just a few months old and this period of my life ultimately inspired my artistic work. When I turned 17, I was excited to move back to Montreal so I could begin my studies in photography, though I temporarily decided to abandon this pursuit before eventually returning to it. At that time, I was living in an apartment and struggling to find work. However, I soon realized that I could survive with a part-time job, as rents were still affordable. This gave me the freedom to devote all of my spare time to painting and permitted me to slowly develop a network of friends and colleagues the visual arts. A few years later, I started working as a painter on cinema and theatre sets, a job I still hold today. Although my work is contractual, it allows me to devote a lot of time to my personal projects. In 2022, I had the chance to work with an incredible new gallery in Montreal called Wishbone, which has been representing me ever since.
How did you get into art in the first place?
For as long as I can remember, I have always had a fondness for drawing. Initially, I would reproduce Disney images or animals, and then I started creating imaginary characters and monsters. I used to draw on my desk in class, and being left-handed I drew in a peculiar way, upside down, which attracted unwanted attention. Of course, I would get scolded a little, but that wasn’t enough to make me stop. So, let’s say that persisting in drawing and eventually painting wasn’t a conscious decision but rather a natural evolution.
As I was very shy, drawing was also a way for me to feel surrounded by my characters and escape into my imaginary world.
You are a trained photographer, but you have dedicated yourself almost exclusively to painting since 2010. How did that happen and what fascinates you about painting?
Towards the age of nine or ten, I discovered my passion for photography and decided that was what I would study later on. My path proves that I followed through with that plan. I loved my studies in photography and still have a great admiration for this art that I find extremely powerful. However, with the advent of digital photography, I often encountered technical problems related to constant technological advancements, which discouraged me.
What’s great about a paintbrush is that it will never let you down! And if it ever fails you… you always have your fingers or anything else at hand to save the day.
Aside from technical challenges, my main interest was in people. The photographic projects I undertook often required the assistance of other people, which made the practice more complicated for me, especially because of a social anxiety that has affected me for a large part of my life. Although loneliness can be heavy at times, I love the idea of only depending on myself for my painting practice. In photography, you observe, compose with what’s in front of you, get inspired and create a narrative. In painting, on the other hand, everything starts in your head, from scratch, from a blank page. I find that fascinating. However, I haven’t completely given up on photography. I like to renew myself and try new things, so all media have the potential for exploration for me. For example, I started exploring sculpture using, among other things, scraps of polystyrene that I retrieve from the trash at work.
I read that your work deals with themes of social class, culture, and identity. Can you please talk more about your work and also tell us why you chose to work with these themes?
Probably, like many writers who integrate autobiographical elements into their work, the same goes for my art. In the sense that themes that are close to me or that I have observed in my daily life impose themselves in my practice. As mentioned earlier, the suburb where I lived ended up inspiring my work. My parents were the first on both sides, paternal and maternal, to have succeeded in escaping poverty. Everything was about appearances. The beautiful lawn, the beautiful house, the compulsive observation of neighbours, the dominant father, the stay-at-home wife, a Buddha statue, “The Secret” book on a bedside table, a yoga DVD somewhere. The average Westerner in an incessant quest for something. It is both a tough yet compassionate look. In parallel to these themes, I am also interested in the working class, which was extensively depicted in a certain pictorial era but seems to have been neglected today.
I often have the impression that an individual is assigned a certain value, based on their job or social status, rather than their values. So, I paint them gloriously, in order to give them back their nobility, to elevate them and give them value.
Please share some of your creative process with us, from an idea to a finished piece or series.
As an artist, I often have flashes of images, shapes, or vague ideas, sometimes more precise, but the final result is always different from what I had anticipated. I think this reflects my personality, as I hardly ever plan anything. I believe that we are not fixed in time, that our mind and emotions are constantly evolving. Therefore, it is difficult for me not to change my mind during the creative process. So much happens during this process, and it is important for me to allow for this evolution, for accidents, and changes of direction. My creative process usually starts with a face, which is the starting point for a complete improvisation around it. Of course, there are some exceptions, but it is mainly my way of working.
Is there any advice for artists at the very beginning of their career that you’d like to share?
It is important to be patient and authentic as an artist. Although it can be tempting to blend in and follow current trends, they are often short-lived. It is crucial to persist in your true nature and artistic interests, even if it means reaching a smaller audience. I believe that one should paint with real passion and accept that it will involve sacrifices, disappointments, and difficult moments, as well as a lot of solitude. It is also important to visit galleries and museums to take an interest and question the work of others. Even though you may often work alone, art is a community rich in experience that can help you grow and exchange ideas. By creating a valuable network, you can meet people who can help you in your career. Unity is strength.
I believe that one should paint with real passion and accept that it will involve sacrifices, disappointments, and difficult moments, as well as a lot of solitude.
Would you like to recommend any fellow emerging artists?
There are so many talented artists in Montreal that it’s difficult to name just a few. But I will take this opportunity to recommend the excellent artist Reno Hébert, with whom I also share my life. 🙂
Any upcoming project or event that you’d like to give a shout out?
Yes! The Wishbone Art Gallery has been actively seeking art fairs in recent months, and they were thrilled to be accepted to the Scope art show in Miami. I will have a solo exhibit there, which is an extraordinary opportunity that I couldn’t have envisioned even just a few months ago. Additionally, I have extended my partnership with Wishbone for the next two years, and we are currently planning a new solo exhibition for 2024.
And last question: What are your hopes for the future?
Firstly, to always keep the passion for creation and continue to explore different avenues. And of course, I would love to have the opportunity to showcase my work on a larger scale in Europe or Asia. I would also add that although I love my job, I would like to rely on it less for my livelihood, as it can be challenging to balance it with my artistic practice due to cinema schedules.
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Written & edited by
Catherine Morin and Nina Seidel
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