Catharina Dhaen (extended), Through the looking-glass


Solo exhibition of the Belgian artist Catharina Dhaen Catharina Dhaen – ‘Through the looking-glass’ ‘My approach to painting is based on sensitivity’, says Catharina when I ask her about her artistic practice. 'The way I paint comes from an insecurity. Painting is a slow process, one where you make many mistakes along the way. I often wonder whether or not it’s too frivolous, or too polished. Even if the slightest detail is off, I will immediately cover it with another layer of paint, painting and ‘unpainting’. So, I guess there is an insecurity, but at the same time, a tension unfolds between what is seen and what remains hidden. And that is an integral part of my work, it shapes and molds all the different ways it can be read.’ Catharina is a woman of many interests. While describing her paintings, she often refers to literature and poetry. ‘There are many things at stake when I paint’ she says. ‘It’s never my intention to create a picture in the sense of portraying a specific subject. When I’m painting, I allow certain things to take shape. Sometimes, an image imposes itself. They are like characters coming on stage.’ ‘My work may seem happy and colorful, it also invokes a sense of free- spiritedness, of doing whatever I like. But it’s exactly this radical way of claiming my freedom that provides me with a framework in which I can create exactly what I want. It’s a liberty I have created quite carefully. And despite the surface’s playfulness, there lingers this interplay of seducing and betrayal and any questions it might arise.' 'You may not see it at first sight, but my work is always linked with my autobiographical story. Many motifs or shapes recur: they are elements from my life and they figure in my paintings. While I’m working, they come forward and I acknowledge them. Or at least recognize their place on my canvas. They come in various symbols that all have personal connotations. But my paintings are not reproductions of them, but rather interpretations. They show the intangibility of my thoughts and feelings.’ ‘Writing poetry and literature has laid the foundation of my painting practice. I’m very much drawn towards so called ‘painters’ painters’, like Raoul De Keyser and Ilse D’Hollander, to name a few, who have really created a voice and a language in paint. Language as an image, basically. I have always loved painters whose works you can read like a poem. The question of whether something is abstract or figurative is irrelevant to me, a painting moves on a spectrum.' ‘My paintings are also biographical because I work quite intuitively. It’s a way to detangle the thoughts in my head. I paint out of necessity, but it’s not always satisfying. And that’s okay because I wouldn’t want my work to be pleasing. To me, painting is pure freedom, but I need to have a set of rules.’ ‘There is this famous saying by Maria Lassnig where she describes painting as a battlefield of erased attempts. Or Raoul De Keyser, who stressed the idea that everything should be connected. That’s how I experience the upcoming exhibition. When all my works come together in the exhibition, they start to breathe.’ Astrid Vereycken, 2020

Represented artist