Alina Brezhneva, 'the last house in the world', Marlborough Fine Art
Have you ever had the feeling when you first got to a new place, that you have been there before and that it seems oddly familiar? Even if your mind tells you clearly that there is no way you could have been there, you cannot help feeling, very subtly, that you know the place and in fact, feel very comfortable there.
This was what I felt when I first looked at Catherine Goodman’s paintings in her studio in South Kensington. I was looking at her new works for the first time but the images seemed strangely familiar. It felt as if I dreamt them once and forgot about them until now, and suddenly the artist brought those long forgotten memories back to life. Here is a hammock that represents every other hammock I spent hours in when I was a child in my dacha in Russia. Here is a hut peeking through great big trees that also reminds me of those days. Here is a view from inside a warm room with a cold wintery scene visible through the windows that takes you back to every winter evening when you have hidden away from snow and wind in the safety of your home. Catherine has an incredible ability to catch these moments that speak right to your heart and capture your feelings. They are personal and impersonal at the same time as they tell stories about both the artist’s life and about the viewers’ lives.
Catherine Goodman is a well-established artist based in London. She graduated first from the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts and then the Royal Academy Schools; her talent was recognised very early on into her career and in 1987 she won the prestigious Gold Medal award at the RA. Further success followed in 2002, when she won the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery. In 2000 she co-founded the Royal Drawing School with HRH The Prince of Wales and she continues as the school’s Artistic Director.
Catherine explains that she works for a long time on each painting, sometimes leaving it aside for a little while and coming back to it when she’s ready, sometimes destroying pieces that she thinks didn’t work. She paints from life as well as memory, photographs, objects that inspire her and often rediscovers her own works again and again after they’ve been finished. Catherine shows me one painting she’d made of an Italian landscape and we both suddenly realise that it reminds us distinctly of a still from Andrey Tarkovsky’s film Mirror, 1974. Our memory works in a fascinating way – it has its own rules of storing information, experiences, feelings. In Catherine’s works memory seems to be weaving an intricate lace of moments from different places and times, revealing a new layer every time you look at them. Layers of paint, as layers of meaning, are tangled, so that it isn’t clear what is on the foreground of the painting and what is at the back, which makes every work a discovery.
The landscapes, objects and people Catherine captures in her works must have carved a special place in the artist’s heart and stayed there, perhaps unnoticed until it was time for them to be transitioned into a painting. It might be that the act of expressing those memories on canvas helps the artist understand why those particular memories were actually so important to her.
We look at the painting of the winter scene again. Catherine explains that it is a view from her friends’ house in Scotland, you can see snowy fields through the windows of a cosy room filled with warm light. The contrast of colours - crisp white against glowing gold - is wonderful, and looking at it I cannot help but imagine the same scene in wintery Russia. Catherine is of Russian origin, her ancestors had to flee Imperial Russia around the time of Revolution of 1917 and even though she doesn’t go back to Russia so often, somehow I can clearly sense the Russianness of her soul translating onto her paintings. Something quietly strong, warm and mysterious at the same time speaks directly to my own Russian soul.
I leave Catherine’s studio feeling nostalgic about my old memories and it is a very pleasant feeling. Her works are powerful, they challenge imagination and allow viewers to find something they can relate to, something that brings back their own forgotten memories.
Alina Brezhneva, 2016