Cathy S R Read
Cathy S R Read with her work at the 153rd Exhibition of the Society of Women Artists

Cathy’s story began in Manchester, the youngest of four where money was tight. In this noisy and busy household, her free time was spent listening to music while drawing or painting. She was dissuaded from pursuing an art career after finding her A level art education too restrictive and dull. Losing confidence in her ability. While preparing for the exams her father died. Shortly after she moved to Oxford and trained as an Occupational Therapist.

Jump forward many years, now a mother with a successful private practice working with children, many of whom had severe behaviour problems. Things were about the change Cathy was feeling the pressure as it became increasingly obvious her son had similar issues. She started painting and drawing more, to help her unwind. Now able to follow her own initiative, the early passion returned.

Eventually things came to a head, after an incident with her son in the school playground at his new school. Something had to give. So, after ending the Occupational therapy practice, Cathy focused on her family. The plan was to reassess once her youngest started school.

During this time she turned to art. Far from finding it futile, it gave her energy. She realised there had been a major missing piece in her life and art was fitting it well. As time progressed her confidence returned. Portraits had been her thing and she entertained ideas of creating these along with caricatures. She read library books and signed up for courses at the local art school. After a few months she started experimenting with masking fluid in an attempt to add more texture to her paintings. Frustrated with brushes and colour shapers, she remembered a compass set she’d been given as a child. The ruling pen worked perfectly, and the compasses gave some exciting results. There then followed a long period of creating circle abstracts.

These early pieces went well and she started depicting ideas, inspired by the neat diagrams used in the psychology training she’d had in Oxford. The titles of these pieces hinting at social and psychological ideas but more incomplete and messy, as psychology often is. They considered mark making as a record of a habit and how habits are repeated but never in exactly the same way. Yet they still form a pattern of life. Circles as the people and inner circles as layers of personality.

Since leaving Manchester Cathy returned many times and noticed the massive changes going on in her hometown, Middleton. The disappearing mills in particular had been an inspiration and she wanted to depict the ones that remained before it was too late. She began taking photographs in earnest and experimented with some collage interpretations before wondering if the masking technique she’d developed would work.

The initial attempts were promising and she soon found the architecture taking over. Hastened by the discovery of exciting new architecture whilst on her photo shoots around Manchester. It wasn’t long before London was added to this list. Milton Keynes and Oxford followed. The masking gave her the architectural structure and the free flowing painting echoing the lives lived out within. Blown ink like a life force or energy escaping to the atmosphere.

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