|Katie was brought up in Finchley, although she moved away from the area five years ago. She was intrigued by the idea of looking more closely again at the area which was once so familiar, and set off on her commission to explore MoDA’s archive and the North Finchley area with a sketchbook in hand.
Katie’s practice is very much about documentation and observation, and she brought this to bear on a body of work that aesthetically takes her painterly approach in a new, more decorative direction informed by the Silver Studio’s Japanese inspired Katagami stencils, originally used on kimonos, and Oriental chinoiseries.
During the 1890s, Arthur Silver was heavily interested in and influenced by the art of Japan. He worked closely with Alexander Rottman who imported many different varieties of paper from Japan. With Rottman, the Silver Studio developed a pioneering technique of stencil decoration, influenced by Japanese stencils, which in turn came to influence the Studio’s own Art Nouveau designs. Anglo-Japanese collaboration of this kind in the 1890s meant that Japanese influences were absorbed into British design and decoration and equally that British tastes influenced the products of Japan itself. Interestingly over 100 years on, the Barnet area still has a strong connection to Japan.
At infants school Katie remembered that she would swap bits of “Japanese paper” in the playground. After seeing the MoDA Collection and the Japanese influence, she wondered if the area had changed since she’d left. She was reassured to discover that there was still a strong connection, “amongst the local children, Japanese and Gujarati are the most common languages other than English spoken in the homes of West Finchley.”
For the commission, Katie created a decorative screen, which combines images of the local Barnet landscape with the form of ancient Japanese screens, direct observational drawing with imagined exotic motifs. Her pieces evoke the act of swapping the snippets of the exotic within the very urban environment of the playground, and the magical quality found within these juxtapositions.
On one of her explorations of the area she writes: “ …I stood at the 221 bus stop on Alexandra Grove and stared at the sky. I’d spent hours waiting there as a schoolgirl. A pigeon landed on a branch, but I wished it were a hummingbird. I was waiting for dusk when the Finchley sky turns purple and you squint, imagining you’re in Kyoto”
She looks at her work and asks whimsically “I wonder if somewhere in Japan there is a small suburb that looks just like Finchley?”
To find out more about Katie and her work, visit her artist page.