ARTIST CATHY WARD: IN LONDON, THE PSYCHIC, SOULFUL MESSAGES OF “THE ORACLES”

ONCE AGAIN, A PAINTER REVELS IN THE THERAPEUTIC REWARDS OF ART-MAKING


by Edward M. Gómez


The American poet, essayist, memoir writer, and civil-rights activist Maya Angelou (1928-2014), speaking about the nature of human life — about each and every person’s journey through life — once told an interviewer, “We’re all in process.”

Speaking about herself but also about any member of the human family’s situation or circumstances at any given time, she noted, “This, too, will change. This will change. This cannot remain the same. I’m in process, so I do the best I can.”

Cathy Ward, “The Oracle of Transformative Inner Energies,” 2024, ink and watercolor on paper, 23.25 x 33.25 inches (58.5 x 84 centimeters). Photo courtesy of the artist

If that kind of thinking, which fundamentally recognizes the impermanent nature of existence, sounds like a page right out of a manual of Buddhist philosophy, it’s also an outlook with which many an artist who has found himself or herself facing big challenges, from paying the rent to physical- or mental-health issues, may be instinctively familiar. Many — most? — artists are not trust-fund kids who are just role-playing in a field to which they really have very little to contribute.

At least many of the artists I’ve met and whose work and activities I’ve examined over the years have not come from privileged backgrounds, which has made their commitment to their work all the more impressive and meaningful to an observer, for they’ve all been keenly aware of what they’ve been up against with regard to being able to survive and continue doing the kind of creative work that is so intellectually and spiritually rewarding to them.


With this in mind, we’ve taken note of the ways in which brutjournal’s London-based artist-correspondent, the British artist Cathy Ward (Instagram: @wardsisterward), has persevered over the past few years, which have included the coronavirus pandemic period — right now, in fact she’s recovering from a bout of COVID — as she has wrestled with what she has described as a “tsunami” of challenges.

All of which is to say that we were knocked over with excitement when we saw a new body of work she produced in recent months, over a relatively short period of time, working at a table in a corner of her art-filled apartment in central London. Cathy also keeps a separate studio at another location.

Cathy Ward, “The Oracle of the Phoenix,” 2024, ink and watercolor on paper, 23.25 x 33.25 inches (58.5 x 84 centimeters). Photo courtesy of the artist

What she conjured up is a large, colorful group of paintings on paper that seem to bring together many of her longtime interests and sources of inspiration, from a fascination with the mystical and the psychic to an interest in the forces of nature; the mysterious, communicative power of dreams; ambiguous narratives; and the fleeting, ultimately unknowable character of the passage of time.

Cathy has titled her new series of paintings “The Oracles.” Several of these new pictures will be included in an exhibition that will open later this year, on September 14, at Tierra Del Sol (Instagram: @tierradelsolgallery), a gallery in the West Hollywood section of greater Los Angeles. Works by the artists Marcella Kroll, Julia Hagen-Brenner, and Katie Mendosa will also be on view in the exhibition, which is being curated by the gallery’s director, Paige Wery.

Cathy Ward, “The Oracle of the Triumph of the Meek,” 2024, ink and watercolor on paper, 23.25 x 33.25 inches (58.5 x 84 centimeters). Photo courtesy of the artist

Regarding the exhibition she is putting together, Wery said, “I’ve had the honor of working with Cathy Ward for almost ten years. I’m thrilled that we will debut her latest body of work, ‘The Oracles,’ in Tierra del Sol’s forthcoming exhibition. Cathy inspired me to curate a four-person show featuring works by women artists, all of whom use spiritual guidance to inform their art practices.” 

Wery added, “Cathy is an incredibly generous person to work with. She took it upon herself to research the other three artists and realized that each one’s astrological sign is that of one of the four basic elements: earth, water, air, and fire. From this, she told me about the Greek philosopher Empedocles [5th century BCE], who first proposed the four classical elements as a set, naming them the ‘Four Roots,’ a term we’ve adopted as the title of the exhibition.”

About “The Oracles,” Cathy told us, “Although I have a studio, over the past few years, due to some rather traumatic difficulties I’ve faced regarding many items that I haven’t been able to properly store and relocate there, that space has become rather unworkable. As a result, in a corner of my small flat, I found the perfect spot in which to paint. Starting at night and working into the small hours of the morning, I managed to shift my focus away from a lot of the chaos with which I had been wrestling in order to produce ‘The Oracles.’”

About this intense period of creative work, Cathy noted, “This release onto another, creative plane felt right and liberating. Making these new paintings became an emptying-out experience; through it, I felt as though I had reformed myself. I needed to regain a sense of a past, Technicolor world I knew — to rediscover color and step spontaneously out of the monochromatic world of my ‘Herworld’ and ‘Liberty Realm’ series of paintings and other works in which I had been living and working for several decades.”

Cathy Ward, “The Oracles of Ceaseless Conflicts Past & Present,” 2024, ink and watercolor on paper, 23.25 x 33.25 inches (58.5 x 84 centimeters). Photo courtesy of the artist

Cathy could sense — and appreciate — the nature of the artistic, creative process and, simultaneously, of the self-transformation her work on a new series of paintings had engendered.

She said, “Intuitively, I felt myself reaching back into the history of my own creative cycle to a time once before when I had closed the door on a past, very traumatic phase and began painting this way. I realized that taking this kind of step was my way of automatically resetting myself. Artistically, somehow, trauma and depression served as triggers that made me spiral down into a visual language that I used in the search for a landing spot within myself. As it turned out, I had established a pattern over the years, and my rescue spot to pull me out was to be found in creating art in a large-scale, colorful, intuitive-automatic way.”

Cathy Ward, “The Oracle of Sunken Deep Mysteries,” 2024, ink and watercolor on paper, 23.25 x 33.25 inches (58.5 x 84 centimeters). Photo courtesy of the artist

Dr. Alyssa Joye, a clinical psychologist in London who knows Cathy and has become familiar with portions of her broader, diverse body of work — she is also an experienced astrologer — has noted about the artist’s creations, “Cathy’s most recent paintings have been a revelation to me. I’ve been struck by how these paintings further a theme of otherworldliness and what lies ‘beyond the veil,’ revealing a sensual and mysterious world of archetypal entities that exist in another realm.”

Joye added, “I’ve asked Cathy about her creative process, trying to understand how she creates such detailed, multilayered images suffused with emotion, at once ominous, whimsical, beautiful and magical. She says the ideas and forms ‘just come out,’ and that she doesn’t plan anything in advance.”

“In allowing her creative energy to flow, she acts as a channel or conduit for messages and symbolism to emerge. [In her new paintings,] vivid, undulating forms morph into creatures and scenes evoking ancient mythology and zodiacal symbolism, the divine feminine, and the human connection to our primordial origins and the natural world.”


[Scroll down to see more of Cathy Ward’s paintings from her new series, “The Oracles.”]

Cathy Ward, “The Oracle of When the Sightless are All Seeing,” 2024, ink and watercolor on paper, 23.25 x 33.25 inches (58.5 x 84 centimeters). Photo courtesy of the artist
Cathy Ward, “The Oracle Beneath, Breaking Silent Stones,” 2024, ink and watercolor on paper, 23.25 x 33.25 inches (58.5 x 84 centimeters). Photo courtesy of the artist
Cathy Ward, “The Oracle of Deepest Shadows & Energies of the Distant Past,” 2024, ink and watercolor on paper, 23.25 x 33.25 inches (58.5 x 84 centimeters). Photo courtesy of the artist
Cathy Ward, “The Oracle of the Gateways to Cosmic Enlightenment,” 2024, ink and watercolor on paper, 23.25 x 33.25 inches (58.5 x 84 centimeters). Photo courtesy of the artist
Cathy Ward, “The Oracle of the Time Tripper,” 2024, ink and watercolor on paper, 23.25 x 33.25 inches (58.5 x 84 centimeters). Photo courtesy of the artist