According to the old adage, novels are always half about life and half about novel writing. In terms of art, we might quip that art is partly about life and partly a reflection on its own conception. Catherine Truman’s 20-year exploration into art and science brings this idea to mind; the artist’s wide-ranging art practice is continuously motivated by a curiosity surrounding the act of creation. The parallels between science and art (as well as Truman’s attention to craft, methodology and reflection) are showcased in her solo show, no surface holds, at Cowra Regional Gallery.
Encompassing both created and found objects, jewellery, film, images, installation and sculpture, no surface holds marks the first time Truman’s science-influenced works have been brought together. As Truman says, “This particular exhibition is really exciting for me because it brings together over two decades of research and all my curiosity in working with scientists.”
The show contains everything from video works on latex glove dissections to sculptural forms that look into the perceptual processes of microscopes. The body is an important site throughout Truman’s work. The artist is interested in how we gain knowledge of our anatomy, alongside our ability to express through our bodies. This has extended to recent work on the human eye, inspired by Truman’s current residency as a visiting scholar in the ophthalmology department at Flinders University.
Despite the vastness of the artist’s chosen mediums and investigations, an interest in working with scientists has always cemented her practice. “When you work with scientists what you learn is that it’s a field of endeavour, and that means that process and methodology are central,” explains the artist. For Truman, art is never created in isolation, but always through relationships. As she says, “That’s where the humanity of my process and work is really embedded.”
Yet what is most interesting is how Truman can so clearly elucidate her modes of process and reflection when collaborating and creating. “I’m like a thinking two-way mirror,” says Truman. “I’ll be observing but I’m also interpreting and then I might reflect that back to who I’m working with and they might reflect it back to me in the moment, or after some time, and things develop from there.”
Truman’s no surface holds is part of the JamFactory’s Icon initiative which recognises and celebrates the work of a different leading South Australian craft and design practitioner each year.