Catherine Starkman paints in an infinite freedom of expression … Her work reveals a singular artistic language shaped by an increased sensitivity to the world around her. The simplicity and the beauty of the forms, the vibrant research on the color underline the sharpness of his artistic look. Interview with a happy and passionate artist.
By Fanny Revault
I started painting very young. My dad who painted at his leisure time gave me a “box of colors” when I was three years old and painting was immediately a total spell. He died shortly after and I continued alone, at home, then in art classes. My infinite sorrow linked to his disappearance evaporated, I escaped into an unreal world. It was a breath of time. The painting represents my past, my present, my imagination. What brings painting is intense, an unlimited freedom to express oneself, to marry reflection and emotion to gesture.
Painting is a monologue, a particular and universal language like that of music or writing. It is a search in a world apart, a unique experience every day, an emotional maze that becomes a conversation with the viewer who will feel it and translate it with his own vocabulary, his differences, his convictions, his personality.
I offer to the eyes of people that I do not know my deepest secrets.
You started your artistic career by practicing photography. Has the medium of photography enriched your approach to painting?
Indeed, I turned professionally around the age of eighteen first to street photography. The sensations related to the magical moment when we capture this thousandth of a second that will transform it into an eternal moment are worthy of a thriller. I think that the shooting, the framing and the light are the three elements that influenced my way of positioning the characters in a painting.
Your work releases a certain freedom and sensitivity to colors. What are you trying to express through color?
The first time the color impressed me was watching a Matisse in a museum. I was speechless, carried away by the power of colors and I would like to share that kind of emotions. Color expresses my sensitivity and painting allows me to use it as a universal language that illustrates passion, beauty, boredom, sadness, disappointment, anger, harmony, pleasure, well-being, ecstasy, provocation, wisdom, love, seduction, sensuality, sexuality, masculine, feminine, dream, injustice, war, inner cries …
Figuration has an important place in your painting. Your characters have a strong presence. Are you looking for a harmony between abstraction and figuration?
Yes, in fact it is a natural balance to move from one to the other because they are different energies and approaches and complement each other. It’s a bit like having masculine and feminine in oneself. The abstract is a deaf and powerful mysterious world, it is a mathematical architecture of colors and shapes that stick to each other, it is a dialogue with matter, light and color, while the figuration evokes a story, tells the story of the “human”, gives life to silhouettes and portraits.
You seem to favor large formats. Why this choice ?
I work on different formats but it is true that I have a weakness for very large formats for the freedom of gesture at the start. A large format is enveloping, it allows to surrender and to be invaded. In the end, his presence is more impressive. I can feel small if I work in a small size, such as wearing too little clothing, and it’s frustrating to be limited. At the same time, a small format requires getting to the point.
You say that ” Painting is a fight and at the same time an extreme sweetness ” …
In fact, a painting is a real adventure, and during its execution, one must go through trials or on the contrary be carried away by grace. There are times when you have to struggle to get what you are looking for, to lose your footing where it is dark and painful, and then there are those times when the painting is disarmingly easy. In general, these are paintings that work like that from the first brushstroke and we feel a diffuse happiness, a form of satisfaction, happiness, balance of harmony. It is impossible to know in advance how this will happen. It’s a bit like a romantic relationship.
When does magic occur in you, the moment of creation when you make a painting?
I will say that it is when I am so intensely absorbed by my painting that I no longer feel my body or my brain and that I disappear completely under its influence. And I only realize it when I come back.
For you, what is a masterpiece?
It is a love at first sight with a work of art that will mark us for life, the totally subjective perfection that fills us as well in aesthetics as in emotion, representation and concept.
Why do you think art is important in our lives?
Art brings a different taste to life. It transforms reality or exacerbates it, it invents, it reveals, transports, provokes, moves, revolts, denounces, questions, teaches, dialogue, comforts, communicates, trouble, amuses, explains, illustrates. It’s beauty, ugliness, love, imagination, dream, travel, history, politics, it’s the mark of our journey on earth. It’s the other in all areas. It’s a way to get to know each other better, to meet again, to go beyond, to open up.
A word about your last exhibition?
I am extremely pleased to have three exhibitions at the moment. Each in different directories.
The first is at the Yoshii Gallery, Avenue Matignon in Paris until July 13th. Mr Yoshii chose to show my abstract paintings. I present some fifteen works in an installation of great beauty.
The second is called “Roman photo”, an exhibition of which I am part and which traces the history of the Roman photo from its beginnings to the present day. I was, in fact, the photographer Coluche for the novel photo “The poor are idiots” he had created and which appeared weekly in Charlie Hebdo. This exhibition, initially presented at Mucem in Marseille by Marie Charlotte Calafat and Frédérique Deschamps, has just started at the Museum of Photography in Charleroi, Belgium.
Finally, the third is in Aix-en-Provence in the beautiful Art Center, Gallifet where Nicolas Mazet and Kate Davis exhibit my works of African inspiration until September 30. Except for a large oil painting of 1999, these are my last great portraits and silhouettes on paper.
So I’m delighted…