Artist Catherine Keogh creates stunning large-scale pieces using a unique technique which blurs the lines between two dimensional and three dimensional art.

Hosting her first solo exhibition 'Emergence' in her home place of Armagh from November 2018 to January 2019, Catherine noted that the exhibition was inspired by her "struggle to emerge as an artist".

This "struggle" began during Catherine's school days back in the 1980s.

She explained: "At school, art was the only subject that I loved but when school ended my mother encouraged me to get a ‘proper job’. She was right of course. There were very few working class girls pursuing careers in art back in the 1980’s."

She continued: "I moved to London and became a nanny and my art remained cocooned for more than a decade but in 2000 my husband and I moved to Australia for a year. Whilst in Sydney I took a couple of art classes and in so doing I cracked the cocoon just a little."

After rekindling her interest in producing art during her time in Australia, on return to the UK Catherine enrolled in an art class in London. The following year Catherine and her husband decided to move back to Northern Ireland and within a month she had started studying an A-Level in Art at Newry Tech before going on to pursue a degree in Fine and Applied Art at Belfast Art College, graduating in 2007.

"I had loved every minute of my studies, but upon graduation I succumbed once again to the notion that I had to do something ‘sensible’ with my degree," shared Catherine.

"I took a job as an arts activities coordinator in a nursing home and stayed there for six years. It was a rewarding job, helping the elderly residents to move from a sedentary to a more active lifestyle," she added.

However, during these years Catherine put her artistic ambitions on hold again. "I was barely doing any painting whatsoever and by now children had arrived, which stunted my art further," said Catherine.

In 2013, Catherine and her husband came across an opportunity to bring a dilapidated building in County Donegal back to life. "My husband and I decided to take the plunge and renovate it. My plan was to open an art gallery and studio, but again I got ‘sensible’ and dropped the studio in favour of a tea room," explained Catherine.

She continued: "I had shackled my art once again, this time to a tea room, and although I had an art gallery, I produced very little art of my own."

"Eventually the business failed, mainly due to our lack of experience. The end came, simultaneously, as both devastating and a relief," she added.

Ironically, with the business gone, Catherine was finally free to concentrate solely on her art.

Now settled in County Fermanagh, Catherine works from her studio, a converted farm outbuilding hidden deep in the rural countryside with picturesque views of Lough Erne as her backdrop.

Although her journey to this point has been unconventional and hard work at times, Catherine uses her life experiences and emotions as inspiration for her pieces.

"My early work concentrated on my struggle to emerge," said Catherine.

"The piece, entitled ‘Emergence’ depicts me partially leaving my cocoon. I drew inspiration from the fable of the cocoon and the butterfly in which a man helps a butterfly to leave its cocoon but unwittingly kills it because he failed to understand that the butterfly needed its struggle to break free, in order to allow it to survive," she shared.

Talking about her artistic process, she said: "By the time I completed the work for my solo exhibition, I had happened upon a style that was both satisfying and original. It's originality comes by way of the choice of my materials, which allow me to both carve and paint. This was exemplified by my piece 'True Colours' in which, having carved it first, I then set about carefully painting it with small lines of many different colours. The result was a striking image awash with colour that, because it is also carved, causes one's eyes to get drawn around the surface plane."

She added: "The piece I am currently working on is ostensibly created the same way. I am interested in experimenting with colours to see what effect using a particular colour family will have on the liveliness of the work."

Having broken free from her "cocoon," Catherine hopes and believes that she has now given herself to her art.

"As the title to my final piece asserts, I am now finding my ‘True Colours.’ My other wing has left its cocoon. But true to form, it’s not satisfying enough to paint a wing. I realise I can only work symbolically. I have no language to adequately capture my thoughts realistically which is why I work abstractly," she concluded.