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Check out William Catling’s Artwork

Today we’d like to introduce you to William Catling.

William, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
“Reaching into the freshly cut trench, I pulled out a handful of purple-gray clay and began making a place setting for the scheduled afternoon tea. The sun was warm against my skin on this lazy summer day with a gentle breeze to move the grass and keep us cool. Seated on the ground nearby, my companions were busy shaping their bowls, cups, and teapots. Amid this collaborative adventure rose an aroma that kept our parents away and for which we dubbed the clay “sewer mud.” And thus, began a tradition that lasted many a summer day.”

This was one of my early childhood experiences with the multifaceted material called clay. This love for clay continued throughout my life, even when I studied to become a painter in my teenage years and while in college at San Francisco State University.

A couple of semesters into my Bachelor of Arts degree, I enrolled in the required explorations in a ceramics class with professor Joe Hawley. After a few weeks of work, we all came proudly to our first critique. On the shelves was a smattering of mugs, bowls, vases and other bits of beginner’s attempts at functional ceramics. We grew quiet as professor Hawley looked carefully at the display of ware; the silence seemed to last forever. He removed a hand from his chin and sweeping us with his gaze proceeded to ask, “What is all this supposed to be?” Our mouths fell open in shock, and he went on to tell us to go back out and create objects that meant something significant to us; something that challenged our understanding of the material and its limitations. I left the room, walked to the technician’s office, bought 100 lbs. of sculpture clay and went to work. That first piece of clay sculpture was the beginning of a life-long relationship with clay and shaping objects that carry significant personal meaning.

I went on from there to a career as a sculptor and a teacher. I later moved from San Francisco to LA and found a new home here in So Cal. For many years my teaching has been informed by my work in the studio. I also exhibit my work regularly at local and national venues, speak at conferences on art and the integration of spirituality and art. My work has been impacted by very powerful figurative sculptors such as DeStaebler, Giacometti, Buck, Neri, and Olivera. I share with them the tradition of creating art of the human condition through the figure as my life’s work.

We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
“The indescribable elusiveness of the soul is what Catling is after in his handmade works, whose physical features appear worn and weathered, their details and particulars ground down to the essentials: the most basic stuff of life.”
– Los Angeles Art Critic-David Pagel.

The sculptures and drawings of William Catling are informed by many decades in the studio dealing with the tension between strength and vulnerability, light and dark, inner and outer, spirit and flesh. The works reflect a way of seeing and are made in a direct association with the artist’s awareness of the physical and the ephemeral nature of life. The figures are designed to be symbolic of an internal journey, revealing both a powerful way of existing and the inevitable reality of suffering.

The figures have a rough, textured surface, inspired by the natural world of tree branches, rock, and earthen formations. The usage and reference of natural materials reinforce a connection to the earth as a source of life and a place of human interaction, as well as the inference of flight which transcends the earth and the limitations of the body.

It is within these complex relationships that create the setting for a beautiful and dynamic unfolding of life: the space between being earthbound and the freedom to soar. There is a beautiful sense of place where there is peace within the fragility of life.

The work is designed to project an ancient connection to humanity’s need for an internal search for meaning. To raise conscious awareness above the surrounding distractions of life and engage deeply with the reality of the natural, the symbolic and the spiritual world.

The artworks specifically engage in a long inner dialogue the artist has regarding the dilemma of “falling upwards” as life’s true reality. The works explore aspects of ascending and descending, open and closed, natural and shaped, as well as a contemplative silence that comes from “hovering” in place.

The artworks are connected to larger concerns of the world and its rhythms, seasons, time and discovering an inner soul scape that is both grounded and ascending, combining transcendence and deep thinking. The figures exist as pieces of this complex visual exploration of movement and the embrace of inner stillness.

What do you think it takes to be successful as an artist?
Success comes from the deep satisfaction of remaining fully engaged with my studio practice, exhibitions of my art, writing and speaking about art, teaching and mentoring others into their vibrant art practices. And all of these continue to be a daily reality that keeps me moving forward with continued anticipation of more to come.

Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
Direct sales available through the artist:
William Catling

Melissa Morgan Fine Art

Phone: 760.341.1056

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
William Catling

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