Good Weekend Art Column

Katherine Hattam – Arthouse, Sydney

Published September 15, 2020
Katherine Hattam, 'The Black Swan of Trespass' (2019)

Artist: Katherine Hattam

Lives: Thornbury, Melbourne.

Age: 69

Represented by: Arthouse Gallery (Daine Singer Gallery, Melbourne)

Her thing: Colourful paintings incorporating collage and considerable word-play.

Our take. Katherine Hattam has spent her life in and around the Melbourne art scene. Her father, Hal Hattam, was the artworld’s obstetrician of choice and a talented amateur painter. Katherine has been exhibiting regularly since the late 1980s, and her lately her son, Will MacKinnon, has made a name for himself as a artist.

In The Landscape of Language, Hattam’s third solo exhibition at Arthouse, she continues to use old paperbacks as collage in her larger paintings. The book titles invite us to look for meanings that may or may not exist, beyond whatever memories they conjure up in the artist’s mind. Hattam favours old Penguins that would have disintegrated by now anyway.

In terms of colour, and the riotous Australiana that runs through these canvases, this is one of her boldest outings. Hattam’s swans may be black but her kangaroos can be bright blue or pink. Her subjects range from domestic still lifes to allegorical landscapes. On the way she pauses to consider the  attempts by the First Fleet’s William Dawes to learn the Eora language; environmental issues (symbolised by Hokusai’s menacing wave); and a favourite picture by American master, Philip Guston.

In a painting called Pantheon (1973), Guston wrote a list of the artists he most revered. Hattam has undertaken a feminist revision, replacing Guston’s all-male list with a female cast. As statements go it’s more playful than strident.

Can I afford it?

For a well-established artist, Hattam’s prices are very affordable. The most expensive picture in this exhibition is the oil painting, The black swan of trespass(217cm by 155cm), at $17,500. This would equal her existing record price. There are 12 works selling for the low price of $2,200. This includes small oil paintings such as Pink kangaroo, Swans dream phthalo, and The friendship garden (each 43cm by 31cm).


 Where can I have a squiz?

Arthouse Gallery, 66 McLachlan Avenue, Rushcutters Bay, Sydney.  6- 28 March, 2020.



Published in The Good Weekend, Sydney Morning Herald, 21 March, 2020