In Conversation with Catherine Holtzhausen
For our third collection, we joined forces with Cape Town collage artist and illustrator, Catherine Holtzhausen. Catherine's piece for FIELDS illustrates a much-needed positive view of the world, paying homage to challenging hegemonic ideas and replacing them with movements of compassion. We chat to Catherine on her process, ideas of compassion and pulling great art out of museums and galleries.
What were the things to consider when creating for a medium that’s to be worn, as opposed to any of the more “traditional” surfaces?
I didn't want the piece to feel particularly forced or contrived, so going into the project, I approached it very openly, mostly considering the attitude and outlook of the wearer. With such a garment, I found it is not dissimilar to an artwork in your home in a sense. It is a talking point, one in which each viewer can express what they perceive, and from there a conversation begins. The exception being that this artwork is being worn out in the world, to various places and countries and not just invited into one's private space. Regarding the design, I also focused quite a lot on how the design will flow around the body and how that narrative unfolds, but later stepped back a bit and allowed the artwork to evolve quite organically.
How does this collaboration differ from some of the others you’ve done?
The FIELDS brand truly collaborates with the artists and contributors. I was informed on every detail from manufacturing to fashion week and each step of the process is thoughtful and ethical. I was immediately proud to put my name alongside FIELDS. Throughout the project it was easy to feel a little unsure of how the final product would come out going from a mixed media paper collage to knitwear. Thankfully the team had all the various samples and swatches to make sure that the exact hues I wanted were selected. He also assured me of which details will be translated into the knitwear and which will be lost. It was refreshing to have the team so helpful and involved whilst still allowing for my own creative voice.
Take us through the process of creating this particular piece?
I started off with a selected colour palette of four colours and experimented with different mark making techniques. Mainly using layers of these paints with a dry brush to get quite clear organic brush strokes. For my concept I then looked to historical representations of figure study, like Auguste Rodin’s ‘Thinker’ Sculpture, da Vinvi’s drawings of the Vitruvian man and various marble sculptures of Ancient Greece. Then using fine scissors, I cut out those painted papers into my forms. I had a huge stack of figures, ranging from realistic to very abstract, large to small. I began piecing them together like a puzzle, allowing each figure to dictate which direction it should be and where the following piece goes, eliminating figures that distract or interfere with the movement of another figure until the final piece felt cohesive and complete.
How did you interpret the fundamental message of the collection, 'Be The Change'?
At the time of the collaboration I was quite fresh into recovery from a severe burnout brought on by exertion and perfectionism. I had since found solace in making changes within myself and making peace with imperfection, vulnerability and accepting help. I wanted this piece to reflect a level of softness and vulnerability whilst juxtaposing strength and solidness.
I find as mankind, we are constantly striving to be better than before, better than our former selves, better than others, and sometimes we look too harshly upon that previous version of self and of others. We cannot be fleeing from our former self, that is not why we keep the journey going. Rather we put one foot before the other, we extend a hand, a knee, a shoulder and raise each other up so we can all get closer to reaching our better selves.
This piece pays homage to those bravely challenging hegemonic ideas and replacing them with movements of compassion.
Is there a part that you particularly enjoy when working on a creative brief?
The beginning of a project is always the most exciting for me, where I’m madly conceptualizing and drawing out all these new ideas which would possibly never have seen light had it not been for the prompt of the brief.
What do you hope the wearer feels when putting your work on their body?
I hope it encourages the wearer to feel compassionate towards themselves and toward others. Having this compassion translate to pride and confidence coming from a place of sincerity and kindness.
The idea of fashion being “wearable art” has long been debated, what are your thoughts about it?
I follow the notion that art remains subjective, and should be celebrated on whichever and whatever platform the artist chooses. Personally I am a strong advocate for bringing great art out of exclusively museums and galleries and making it more accessible to the greater public to view and enjoy and I feel fashion is a perfect medium for this. It also allows the wearer to engage with the artwork, decide how to wear and style it, which in turn makes the wearer a collaborator of the artwork and gets them involved in creativity and creative thinking.
When investing in a piece of clothing, what is important to you?
Ethics. I want to support brands that respect people and employees and the environment.