Kate Arthur is a South African artist currently living and working in Cape Town.
Arthur works predominantly in painting, drawing and more recently in printmaking, after working for a period of time at Warren Editions. She is interested in portraiture, the body, and notions of identity – particularly Queer identity and its intersectional overlaps. She is committed to representing people who might for various reasons be marginalised, acknowledging their bodies as sites for individual and collective expression of history, politics, and identity.
Arthur’s extended series of “body portraits” look at the body as a site of identity. Arthur’s focus is the bodies of people who identify as queer – an identity which encompasses not only aspects of gender, sex and sexual orientation but also, and more importantly, a politics which resists or challenges normative narratives around gender and sexuality. Ultimately, this work is a celebration of a range of bodies belonging to a range of queer-identifying people.
Two of Arthur’s large-scale body portraits in oil won first and second prize in the Sanlam National Portrait Award in 2017.
Printmaking, which has become an important part of her practice, has forced Arthur out of her comfort zone of painting in the most appropriate way. Letting go of control and being open to results of chance in the studio has allowed her to explore the same subject matter in an experimental and playful way.
It has also allowed her to rework similar images over and over, offering opportunities for layering and merging combinations. The work embraces fluidity, where the contours and borders of bodies spill out over and across and between each other. These processes open up the possibility for multiple bodies to exist together, revealing how bodies are different and how they are the same, and blurring the lines of where one body ends and another begins.
Her work in etching and monotype proposes a suspension of dichotomous understandings, of what we think we know about bodies and to whom they belong, and invites an act of looking that acknowledges the “masculine” in the “feminine”, and vice versa. For Arthur, these bodies – all bodies – have the potential to be neither and/or both. Thinking about bodies then becomes less about ascriptions and assumptions and more about a sensitivity to the nuances of embodiment.