Catherine Abel
ArtsCulture

Catherine Abel: Woman and Eroticism in Contemporary Art

Catherine Abel was born in Australia in 1966 and started her artistic career when she moved to Paris in the year 2000. Her work was influenced by the historic art in Europe, with references like Pablo Picasso, George Braque, Salvador Dali, André Lhote, and Tamara Lempicka being the most notable.

Similarities between Catherine Abel´s style and Tamara de Lempicka

The similarities between the styles of Abel and Lempicka are indisputable as though time had wanted them to be contemporaries. In their works, one can observe a species of architectonic mock-up where geometric forms fit perfectly, conforming with a realistic and balanced image. Nevertheless, the symbols become something more; they speak in a sensual and captivating language.

Catherine Abel

The feminine eroticism, eye-catching and agreeable, like other depictions from a time ago are brought into the present, making her art unique. 

A self-taught artist, Catherine Abel dedicated herself to portraying the erotism of women from different eras. Using diverse techniques that she demonstrated through oil on canvas, she combined different art styles such as deco, cubism, modernism, and post-impressionism.

This fusion allows Abel to deploy colours, figures, and scenery that imitate the 20th Century. Through her art, she conveyed to the public an enviable sensuality that emerges from feminine characters.

The indisputable style that Catherine Abel employs for her projects comes from art deco, something that started to formulate from the decade 1910 and reached its maximum splendour in the period between the World Wars.

Catherine Abel

Art deco began in Paris, towards the end of the First World War, and extended into other territories. It is the style identified with the “Belle Epoque”, a movement inspired and influenced by constructivism, cubism, futurism, art nouveau, and the rationalism of the Bauhaus school. It is characterised by a classic aesthetic, symmetry, and straight lines, with geometry being one of the keys in its perception.

This style dominated a great part of the aesthetic universe from 1925 to 1935, and in different disciplines such as architecture, design (posters, typography, applied arts, decoration, style), painting, sculptures, recording, and cinematography. It also made a mark on Hollywood, which was astute and perceptive in taking on art deco as a glamour symbol. 

A sense of the refined, elegant and sensual, which is in harmony with the spirit of the mad years at the beginning of the 20th Century and pertains to the advance of technological modernisation and economic progress can be seen in Art Deco.

Catherine Abel

Powerful families acquired art deco to portray their own posterity and laid claims on the movements and beginnings that birthed Art Deco, as their own. This is exemplified in the works of Klimt, Waterhouse, and Mucha, who are the renowned artists that inspired Abel in her first approaches to painting, demonstrating Abel’s taste for art Nouveau: a refinement that seeks to give more weight to the decorative than the practical, a species of occult aesthetic language. 

It is this framework of movements that Abel employs to shape her coveted works which are currently exhibited in Australia, France, and the United States. Her works have also been finalists of the art prizes of Archibald, Sulman, and Portia Geach, and her works were present in private collections across the world.

Her recognition as an artist grew tremendously following her first works from the year 2000, her journey to Paris being the spark that propelled her career forward. The portraitist had elucidated in numerous interviews about the impulsive intention of her work which is the expression of realism through the symbols produced in her works. The deployment of (post)post-impressionism had been the result of numerous attempts of Abel to perfect and improve her works over time.

Catherine Abel

To that end, Abel had also registered with the Florence Academy of Art to study the Renaissance methods of certain artists and during her time there, she ended up enamoured by the neoclassical movement. 

Speaking about her creative process, Abel explained that she started with sketches and ideas, and later she moved on to creating photo sessions with a model. She elucidated that she improvises materials and accessories, and from there awaits a spark of inspiration.

Once she had obtained the final sketch of the figure, she could pass a lot of time until she decided on the correct background. Abel stated that she takes all of this to be a necessary process and she cannot create it all suddenly because time has to work its magic too. 

The backgrounds of her works are characteristic of the artist. According to Abel, many artists who paint the feminine form always do so with a background already created. In contrast, Abel brings with her another dimension; another perspective of a background with strong cubist influence.

Towards the end of the eighties, she was greatly inspired by the works of Tamara de Lempicka – her figures, colours, and dimensions – which incited her to try painting. And it is these works of Abel that are purely symbolic, where there is a revealing meaning behind the images.

From what could be a simple pearl necklace and grapes on the vine, facial expressions, hand positioning, to the background colour; the painting of Catherine Abel is rich in symbolism. 

These last examples are those which reach the psyche and connect profoundly with the idea of beauty; an image of pleasure. The art expresses joy and longing and manifests sexuality as another characteristic, and this seductive and erotic power compels the work to transcend simple representation.

It tells another story, one that goes further than the historic or traditional, the religious or mythological. The choice of women as the protagonist of the work confers the ideal of beauty and the finesse of art deco. Nevertheless, Abel does not limit herself to portraits of women in suffocating dresses in a great hall; it is the sensuality of a simple and ordinary scene that characterises her art. 

Erotic art is an image that creates its own context: manifesting in public the private, expressing the intimate, and seeking to rummage through the idea of beauty generated in the subconscious of the viewer.

Choosing a woman as the main character of the work, Catherine Abel realises and expresses the sensuality of the real, following the philosophy of Kandinsky, one of her favourite artists: “I believed that art shouldn’t be merely representative, but rather it should force the expression of spirituality and depth of human emotions through abstract (…)”. 

Translation by David Crowe

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