Several months ago I was working from home while Paul was in the store. He texted me to say that our friend CJ Mugavero had asked if we’d be interested in hanging some paintings by an Expressionist artist she had just begun representing in her gallery, The Artful Deposit.
CJ mentioned to Paul that I had liked a few of them when she posted them on the Artful Deposit Instagram and she suggested that they’d be a good fit in our shop.
I like a lot of the work that CJ posts on her Instagram feed so I wasn’t certain which paintings she was referring to, but Paul and I like having original art – new and vintage pieces - in our shop, so I said it would be great to have a few pieces from this new artist.
Later that day I checked in on our own Instagram feed and there was a photo Paul posted of himself holding the two pieces that CJ brought over.
I was captivated.
They were portraits of women and the more I looked at them, the more I saw who each woman was…and the more I recognized myself.
The next day, I arrived at the store and immediately went to the paintings. The artist’s style looks so simple, but her paintings are anything but simple. They convey complex emotions, the emotions we all feel inside, even if they don't show on the outside.
I commented to Paul “look at the subtlety of her brushstrokes and shading, the layering of the paint, these paintings tell a huge story.”
I was a fan.
“What’s her name?” I asked as I leaned in to read the card beside one of the paintings.
“Catherine” replied Paul, “Catherine Jolly.”
Over 11,000 miles away in Perth, Australia was a woman who spoke a language that I completely understood. I wanted to know more…I needed to know more about the artist and her work.
Recently I reached out to Catherine via email to ask a few questions in an effort to get to know her a little better.
Catherine didn’t reply to my email right away but a few days later, I received an message back with an apology for the delay. Catherine explained that her mother suffered from Alzheimer’s and recently she and her family had to move their mother into a hospital.
I felt an immediate connection with this woman I’d never met. I let her know that I wasn’t in any rush for a reply. I urged her to take her time, then I went on to explain about my own mother’s long struggle with dementia, a struggle which finally ended when she passed away this past February.
When I heard from Catherine a few days later, I found out that she was born in Kenya, East Africa in 1962. Her family moved quite a bit, living in Lesotho, Basutoland and then Cape Town, South Africa before emigrating to Perth, Australia in 1977.
She told me that she’s always loved Art explaining that she had plenty of influences as a child. Her grandmother was friendly with the Artist Tretchikoff and she had a “beautiful big book of his paintings, and I used to pore over the images in the book.” Catherine’s paternal grandmother painted in oils, while Catherine’s own mother did “the most Beautiful China painting.” Catherine herself prefers working in acrylics.
She shared with me a childhood memory… explaining that when she was about ten years old, she entered an Easter Art competition at their nearby Supermarket and she shared how delighted she was when walking past the store one day she saw her painting in the shop window.
Catherine became a single mother at the age of 32. She has a son, “my beautiful son Sasha” she explained to me that she was reading Anna Karenina while pregnant, hence his name. At that time, she was spending a lot of time home alone with her new baby and that’s when she started painting in earnest.
So, what about the women that Catherine paints? Who are they?
“The Women in the paintings are Me and all Women and Humanity,” Catherine explained. She likes to express emotion – and the beauty of emotion - in the faces. Catherine told me that she likes to “express feelings and move other people when they view them.”
About her painting style Catherine told me “I like to paint quite freely and quickly and capture the emotion in the faces and then build up the depth and colour, shading and tones. I am self-taught. So do things in my own way. I love Colour and like things that are arresting.”
I asked Catherine if she has any favorites. “I do have favourites. One of them is a black figure in the Australian Outback.” She went on to explain “Aboriginal people , Indigenous People in Australia, have a very difficult time. As do the Native Americans, and this is what I was trying to express.”
“My other favourite is Melancholy, love the watermelon pink and the melancholic expression. Melancholy is my favourite word.”
“My philosophy for life has been life is to have lots of new experiences so at times that can lead to good things but other times difficulty. But if you survive it all leads to a rich life.”
Since those first paintings arrived in our shop, we’ve hosted other work by Catherine.
This past February we attended CJ’s Artful Deposit Gala at Fernbrook Farm. CJ had an amazing collection of art on display and available for purchase. Shortly after we arrived at the event Paul and I were engaged in a conversation. During the conversation, my eye was drawn to the far end of the building, three rooms away. There was a painting on the wall that I couldn’t take my eyes off. When our conversation ended, Paul and I began working our way through the rooms looking at each piece. When we arrived at the room with the painting that quietly captured my attention, Paul looked at the same painting and said “this painting is beautiful.”
“I think maybe we should buy it.”
I smiled, “I think we should, too.”
We both leaned into the card on the wall beside the painting…it read“Lost in Gold by Catherine Halligan-Jolly.”
We asked CJ not to let Catherine know that we were the buyers of her painting. We didn’t want her to think we had purchased her painting just to re-sell it in our shop.
No, we purchased this painting because it spoke to Paul and to me in an language that we couldn’t ignore.
We're Paul and Johanna and we write about our life in the furniture business. The things we love, the places we go, and the treasures we find along the way.