Norman Catherine was born in East London, South Africa in September 1949.
In 1969 he held his first solo exhibition consisting of oil paintings on wood, bone, wire and an assortment of found objects. His art has since undergone several metamorphoses, from the pristine airbrush paintings of the 70s to the frenzied, ritualistic mixed media works of the early and mid 80s; the wire sculptures and tin can works of the late 80s, and the primitive-futuristic paintings of the early 90s which provided the seeds for his pre-millennial menagerie of anthropomorphic beasts. In the thirty years spanning his past and present output, Catherine’s visual trademarks have included rough-edged comical and nightmarish forms, rendered in brash cartoon colours. His idiosyncratic vision – a combination of dark cynicism and exuberant humour, as well as his innovative use of everyday materials, has secured his place at the forefront of South African contemporary art.
Catherine has always operated in his own idiosyncratic space. His art is distinctly, defiantly, dystopian in vision. His landscapes are surrealistic sites of struggle between a bizarre bestiary of creatures. Contorted forms rendered crudely in brash, cartoon hues cavort in irrational spaces. They resemble mutant products of an experiment gone comically awry. The response to Catherine’s work is not sanguine, but rather one of unmitigated shock. But the shudder is soon followed by a smile. Catherine’s sensibility is as whimsical as it is sardonic – as light as it is dark.