Colourful place to retreat

The Retreat Level at City Club is a great place to view artworks from the RACV Art Collection, including Katherine Hattam’s paintings.

Staying on the Retreat Level at City Club not only gives you access to a private lounge and premium room, but it’s a great place to view artworks from the RACV Art Collection, including Katherine Hattam’s colourful paintings.

RACV Visual Arts Curator Ellen Wignell says Katherine Hattam’s interior paintings strike a chord in our current climate.

“They show an appreciation of home life, from the views outside the window to the clutter we gather at our desks or kitchen tables,” she says. Although these artworks look fresh and could comment on our recent history, Katherine’s work in the RACV Art Collection is from 2010.

Ellen says Katherine’s interior views speak to a tradition of still life and frozen moments in time.
“She maps the world through her home, creating images that are autobiographical yet linked to outside landscapes, people, and histories. These works highlight our interior spaces and elevate our domestic lives.”

Katherine’s flattened plane speaks to the influences of collage and printmaking, which are both important parts to her practice. “However, the bright pop of colour cements a strong personal style,” Ellen says. “This confidence with colour was developed after attending art school in Melbourne at age 38. Previous to this, her work centred on black-and-white drawings.”

Katherine Hattam, Inventory #2, 2010, oil, synthetic polymer paint and pencil on canvas, 172 x 121cm. Courtesy the artist, photographer Christian Capurro, RACV Art Collection.

Katherine Hattam, Fed Square, 2010, oil, synthetic polymer paint and pencil on canvas, 153 x 153cm. Courtesy the artist, photographer Christian Capurro. RACV Art Collection.

In 2020, Katherine produced a new series of work, specifically commenting on the extra time spent at home. The exhibition explored the absurdity of confinement, and her images created dreamscapes, interweaving stories from her mother’s Penguin classics with Australian fauna. Wearing many hats, she also curated an exhibition, I AM HERE, this year that showcased the strength of Australian female artists.

As part of RACV Club’s interview series examining the artworks that are hidden in plain sight across our clubs and resorts, Katherine Hattam reveals how her domestic setting inspires and influences her art practice in the following Club Highlights Q&A.

You’ve created artwork for more than 50 years and your work is included in major collections, such as the National Gallery of Australia and RACV Art Collection. When was the “ah ha” moment you realised you were an artist?

I started drawing in black and white when I was 16. I did it for school at first and then I became immersed in making these pictures. I had my first exhibition at 28 but I can’t pinpoint the time I realised I was an artist – I was too busy being a wife and mother.

Academically, you set out on a different path. What did you study initially?

At 18, I went to Melbourne University and studied literature and political science, then I married halfway through (the degree). It wasn’t until I was in my late 30s that I secured a scholarship for a masters at VCA (Victorian College of Arts). At the time, I had three little ones, aged three, seven and nine, so I wasn’t able to hang out or go to night (exhibition) openings. I’d get up at 5am so I could make art. The VCA coursework made me be more conscious about my (artwork) decisions. Later I did a PhD at Deakin on art and psychoanalysis.

How would you describe the time you spend in your Melbourne studio?

It’s a mixture of things: energy, deadlines, commitment, as well as being mediative. I really enjoy being in the studio but can’t get enough time. Sometimes it’s a struggle and can be physically demanding; it’s like painting a house. While it’s important for my sanity it’s also a job.

There’s growing respect and recognition for female artists but are there still barriers?

A lot of women artists are coming into their own in their 70s and 80s, women such as Helen Maudsley and Rose Wiley. Internationally the attitude of curators is more open and responsive (to older female artists).
Some art prizes are aged-based and presume an artist is at their best at, say, under 40 or 35. Traditionally men in Australia do their best work in their 20s, but a lot of women have a different path and do their best work later in life, which is partly to do with motherhood and family.

Why does your work focus on domestic objects, such as a table, scissors, cups, glasses and even pets?

I use what is directly in front of me and I rely on intuition to choose these objects. The choice I make is subconscious and then afterwards I reflect on the choices I’ve made. If I’ve used say a computer and phone, it can be about connecting with friends and family.
A table is what we sit around, and it is the centre of the house and family. My work is defined by family and feminism.

Did your Australia-China fellowship at the Beijing Art Academy change your work in any way?

In 2003 my husband and I went to China and we had an apartment in a compound in Beijing where we were the only westerners. It was stressful because it was in the middle of the SARS outbreak and you couldn’t get any information. The residency didn’t change my work but gave me six weeks to slow down and focus on it. Because of SARS I didn’t hold an exhibition then, but I went back with my artist son William MacKinnon and took a box on wheels with works on paper and exhibited in Beijing and Shanghai.

Our Club Retreat Package gives you access our exclusive Retreat Level. Enjoy the private lounge along with canapés and drinks each evening. Pamper yourself with an overnight stay in one of our Joseph Pang designed executive rooms or suites, daily breakfast, convenient onsite car parking, and The Retreat level access, from $400* for two people. Book online or call 9944 8888 to book. *Terms and conditions apply and are available online here.

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