'Rhyolite', Cathy Ward

Painting of a countryside scene with electricity pylons

Oil on elderwood, 15 x 17cm

My work is driven by what I might call a romantic obsession. I use the word ‘romantic’ in its fullest sense, and see it as both the deeply felt urge to create something with emotional impact and meaning to at least myself, and encompassing the sentimental, popular ideas found in many a keepsake. The philosophical basis of the Romantic movement also inspires me. The idea of ‘Manifest Destiny’ as played out in the American West, from its fevered beginnings to its current state of waste, has been a long-running source for my activities. Manifest Destiny is particularly important because it bridges the gap between the high-minded and low life. I cannot be a complete follower of 18th century Romanticism, for I see that the overtly philosophical nature of the movement lacks true meaning for many people and demands wealth and privilege to live it daily. This brings me to the sentimental, which I see as embracing a folk ethic, expressing a collective memory as a tonic to lives that have lost a connection with the past. The overtly maudlin and sentimental Victorian crafts and funerary practices are a manifestation of the romantic that is directly inspiring to me.


Cathy Ward was born in Ashford, Kent in 1966. She studied at Canterbury College of Art 1978-81, Middlesex Polytechnic 1983-86 and the Royal College of Art 1986-88. Her first solo show was Metamorphoses Oriel 31 Welshpool 1989. Her work which includes film and sculpture as well as drawing and painting has since been shown widely in the UK, Europe and in Central and Western USA. Recent projects include Transromantik London and Toronto 2000-1, Herworld Artesian Gallery Edinburgh 2003 and following her Grizedale/Roosevelt Island Grant 2003-4 Romantic Detachment PS1 New York 2004 (UK tour ongoing).