MORWENNA CATT: SAATCHI ONLINE CRITIC'S CHOICE BY ANA FINEL HONIGMAN
As my mother would say: Morwenna Catt is "not a happy bunny." Nor are the embroidered cloth rabbit sculptures she makes in order to 'take recognizable artefacts and tales from childhood and subvert them into something malformed, battered and bruised; to evoke that darker side of childhood experience.'Like the anthropomorphised playthings children clutch, Catt's rabbit heads are more human than animal. They have long floppy ears but human sculls and basic, pretty, feminine features. They also are covered in ragged embroidery, resembling elaborate tattoos or bruises.
All beloved toys earn scars from children's careless love. But these bunnies' debased appearance belies more malevolent and purposeful abuse than the normal wear and tear. Catt's stuffed toys provoke adultempathy. And she explains the bunnies' sad sagas in her 'Poison' series of acrylic and hand stitching canvases. In these Tim Burton-like paintings, Catt establishes the bloody, tragic back-story for her stuffed toys' trauma.
More common is the mildly distressingly, yet still disillusioning, childhood experience Catt evokes in her series of X-ray photograph-on-light-box works. In these, she exposes the corrupted innards of stuffed animals, as they might appear when passing through an airport X-ray. Children traveling are often upset when separated from a cherished stuffed toy, whose trip into the X-ray underscores its existence as an inanimate object different from its empathetic owner. Airport security searches toys for drugs, weapons and other counter band but Catt's toys contain messages aimed at the adults who tamper with children and childhood symbols. One such horsey hides a key and padlock, along with the words "betrayal," in its belly. Here, as in her other work, Catt's creatures' pain is palpable but as inarticulate and heartbreaking as all childhood hurts.
Ana Finel Honigman
ANA FINEL HONIGMAN is a critic, PhD candidate in art history at Oxford University and Senior London Correspondent for the Saatchi Gallery's online magazine. She is Style.com's Arts correspondent, Arts Editor of Alef, a Berlin correspondent for asmallworld.net and contributes regularly to such publications as Artforum.com, Art in America,TANK, Dazed & Confused, Sleek and British Vogue.