Catrin Morgan’s Interior StudiesMarch 14, 2018
During Catrin Morgan’s residency, she sat down for a brief interview. Check it out on WSW’s Vimeo!
Saint Jerome, in sixteen artworks digitized and simplified by Catrin Morgan, distractedly pores over his Latin translation of the Bible. In some cases, he stops to pull a thorn from a lion’s paw; in one exception, he clasps a small church. And notably, in Catrin’s book Studies for Studies—an unfolding inquiry into renderings of Saint Jerome in his study—we will not see him once.
Renaissance Christian historical and biblical paintings depart from medieval portraiture of holy figures found in older works and altarpieces. Studies for Studies traces this added embellishment and architecture, focusing on the provisional room in which the saint performs his translation. Many are little more than thin boards boxing in the scene, but some, the artist writes, are “so convincing that I can smell the air.”
Catrin’s Artist’s Book Residency Grant project is composed with three digital, photocopied, and hand-printed works: Typologies, a pamphlet; Studies, a screenprinted poster; and A Study, an illustrated essay bound in the book’s core. Studies for Studies is not a book we can leaf through once. A Study contains seven discrete sections with interlocking references all held together by tape binding. The moving pieces of Typologies and Studies, attached to the front and inside covers respectively, reveal the symbols, dates, and spaces that form the basis of the essay.
However, do not expect the book to solely contain lists. While Catrin confesses that she normally has projects upon projects in the works, with “four or five things ticking away in the background,” her artist’s book is several projects in itself, some of which she did not undertake alone. The final section of her essay, “Grace” is a collaboration with artist Alex Bildsoe while the text of Studies are responses to her designs written by writer Max Porter.
The research preceding Studies for Studies landed Catrin squarely in a short subsection of art historical canon. The case study examines the works of fourteenth to sixteenth century artists such as Ferrer, Colantonio, and Lochner, which are laden with gold ornament and cascading drapery. This visual vocabulary can be read in the book as well, as her text runs much like a predella under its own illumination. Despite the draftsman nature of Catrin’s drawings—along with her love of cross sections and floor plans—she welcomed a saturation of these details. Her career began in painting before graduate work in visual communication brought Catrin to her current practice.
Including and outside of Studies for Studies, her practice crosses between writing, performance, design, and lectures. Her dissertation, A Taxonomy of Deception, followed another case study focused on writers and designers created as hoaxes. At the end of the following lecture she took advantage of its framework to insert and reveal her own hoax. Interested in the assumed objectivity and authority found in research, Catrin shapes her work and writing by these arguments.
“I feel that lectures are underused and thought to be boring. It’s a beautiful structure and easy to do something unexpected,” she explains. “I want my lectures to be my work.”
Aside from the selection of paintings, her current study also brought together writings encompassing Anne Carson, Brian Dillon, and famous art historian Erwin Panofsky. Referencing Panofsky, who himself referenced Leon Battista Alberti and the famous assertion that a painting serves as a window into a time and place, Catrin breaks down the subjectivity of space. She contemplates the misuse of shadows, materiality of paint, and symbolism beyond the conventional iconography to discuss the reality of this window. Then, by organizing the paintings of Saint Jerome in his study into measurable units, the artist uses these basic elements to rewrite what the narrative.
Saint Jerome’s studies are framed in the language of a book with walls folding in on the spine. Time passes with each turn of a page and throws Saint Jerome and his belongings about. Though the paintings’ artists attempted to substantiate a moment in the life of a saint, the walls which hold him swing, diminish, tessellate, then disappear across the book’s spreads. Windows slide across the room and grow into archways. The study closes along its invisible binding and opens again in an unrecognizable form.
When we open Studies for Studies, the covers move like the walls of the room, changing the space that holds our attention. The poster, Studies, unfolds to change shape and a gap is left in the pocket that holds Typologies. When we reach the end of the argument, the study closes one a last time.
Catrin Morgan is designer, lecturer, and Artist’s Book Residency Grant recipient based in the United Kingdom. She holds her BA in Fine Art from Leeds Metropolitan University and her MA and PhD in Visual Communication from the Royal College of Art. She enjoys studying studies in her own studies. Find more of her work, including built replicas of the study, with the dalla Rosa Gallery.