Installation and conceptual artist Catherine Borowski is one third of a new exhibition, You Get What You’re Given, which runs from 17th – 20th November at Hoxton Arches. Along with co-exhibitors Lee Baker and Olivia Hegarty the show’s title references a Beckettian theme of mortality and the work offers a bleak, tragicomic outlook on human existence. Which is kinda apt to how we’re all feeling right now. She used to work with Josh Jones absolutely ages ago so they caught up for a chat about it.
Well hello Catherine, how the devil are you?
Hey Josh, long bloody time no see. How are YOU? I am really well thank you. Working hard on the preparation for the exhibition. Currently figuring out where to store 800 staircase spindles once the show closes.
What’s this show all about? It’s just three of you right?
Yes, three partners in crime – Lee Baker, Olivia Hegarty and I. It’s like our coming out.
The show is about several things:
1 – Making it happen ourselves. Not just talking about doing an exhibition, but making it happen.
2 – It’s also about death.
And what is your piece for the show all about?
The pieces I’ve got in the show are autobiographical. Design Process (and the Working Class) is about my upbringing in a very un-designer/undecorative council flat on an estate in North London. It’s also evolved into being about grave markers. My mum died recently whilst on a pilgrimage to Mecca (she was Muslim) and she was buried out there. I couldn’t attend her burial, all I’ve got is a series of handwritten co-ordinates to show where her grave is. I started trying to find photographs online of the graveyard where she’s buried in Mecca, and it struck me how close to looking like an Islamic graveyard my installation piece is. So the piece started out as a comment on class and the realisation we were poor when I was little and has evolved into something completely different and unexpected. I’ve been working on the original concept for five years and never imagined it would take this turn.
The second piece, I Don’t Want None Of That is about the experience of clearing out my mum’s wardrobe and finding 45 years worth of coat hangers and all the memories they contain – plastic ones from when I was at art school, “posh” wooden ones that my mum used to hang her work clothes on and loads and loads of wire hangers from the dry cleaners. On top of all that I found a carrier bag containing a signed Henry Moore print that had never been hung on a wall.
It’s a purposefully personal show isn’t it? Was it hard to delve into yourself a bit?
Yes, very much so. I’m a very private person but I realised that I need to just be brave and honest with myself as an artist about my subject matter/concepts. My mum’s death has really made me go there and open up about my life – white girl growing up in North London with a Muslim mum – I never told anyone that my mum was Muslim, not even my best friends at school, college, work etc. I was embarrassed. It was strange. Now I feel like the time is right to own my story. My work has always been quite stark and minimal – I now need to allow myself to be truly autobiographical, and to also let beauty into my work.
What’s your favourite media to work with?
Plaster. I love it. I’m really good at mixing plaster.
Where can we see more of your work?
My website. Plus I’m also working on a top secret gallery that will launch in Jan and will feature a site specific installation that I’m working on with Lee Baker.