Artist Intro - Cate Maddy

Home is where the heart is, and that couldn’t be truer for HEW Clothing, with our latest collection featuring the vibrant works of local Melbourne artist Cate Maddy. 

Heavily inspired by native Australian flora, Maddy was raised in a creative family and studied Graphic Art before working in advertising for 12 years. A return to studies resulted in a Fine Art degree from RMIT University and a travel scholarship that led her to New York City. Maddy was a finalist in the Kennedy Prize in Adelaide in 2018, has exhibited in every major city in Australia and sold work internationally. 

Maddy’s technique includes beginning with acrylics before building layers up with oil paints to create stunning moments of movement and texture. Her subjects are often native flowers in bold, breathtaking colours that appear to shimmer gently in the breeze. Maddy considers her interplay of movement, colour and texture as “emotional and tumultuous, much like life itself”, and says her work is reflective of the relationships we have both with the world and people around us. 

This collaboration was an intuitive choice for proudly Melbourne-based HEW Clothing, as Maddy’s work translates beautifully into a textile print and serves as a homage to the natural Australian landscape. We sat down with the artist to ask her a little bit about her processes and inspiration.


What did you enjoy most about the collaborative process with HEW Clothing?

There is actually a whole other painting underneath this one. The only bits remaining are the red gum leaves on the left hand side which seem to be flying in the wind like an Aussie flag. I guess I am most happy with the colour, the yellow gum flowers seem to pop and movement in the brushstrokes, I struggled with this one and it is nothing like it began as a still life with 3 bottles however often the best paintings are a struggle and take a long time to resolve.


Your work engages more than just the sense of sight. It has real warmth and feeling to it as well. Do you go about creating this effect intentionally or is just a happy coincidence? 

Painting for me is a very emotional experience. Not that I am feeling sad or emotional but more as in a sense of adrenaline and excitement that I work out physically in the painting process. That is why there is a lot of movement or expressionistic style in the paintings, the brush strokes express the physicality or 'action' in the creation. I really can't get enough of painting our Australian plants and flowers  as they are endlessly fascinating to me, they strike a chord because of my love of the country but also are such interesting shapes and colours and are open to so many different ways of interpretation.


What are your favourite native Australian flowers?

I am obsessed with flowering gums at the moment.


How do you approach creating a new piece of work - is it very methodical with it all drawn out beforehand or do you let it come out organically and then work on it as it develops?

Creating a surface to work on that interests me is a somewhat methodical process and something I definitly spend quite a bit of time on before I even begin painting. After that I might have a vague idea of which flowers I wish to incorporate  and colour theme but otherwise I mostly allow the painting to create itself. Some come together quite quickly while others may take months to resolve. Like anything the more you practice the more you learn and at the end of the day you have to allow yourself to remember that you know nothing which is an exciting place to be. I am really enjoying painting some smaller works at the moment which is something I have never really done before.


Are there any other Australian artists who have inspired you throughout your career?

Some of the Australian artists who have inspired me are Clarice Beckett, Elizabeth Cummings, Louise Gresswell and Aida Tomescu. 


You worked in advertising before going back to study Fine Art. Are there any processes or approaches you used in your previous career that you have taken into your current one as an artist? 

I think working in design taught me about Colour, composition, focus and working to a deadline which you wouldn't think you need but you really do. Having the confidence to be able to bring it all together when you have to and acting professionally. 


What is your go-to reference if you’re ever feeling artist’s block?

"The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron is always inspiring and I don't think you can beat getting out in the world for inspiration, galleries, museums, spending time in the bush. I love botanical artists also especially Colonial artists.


Has the current COVID-19 pandemic influenced your work or your approach to making art in any way?

Certainly I have had more time to paint during the lockdown which has allowed me to experiment and to work on a whole series based on flowering gums each only subtly different from the last rather than each painting looking radically different. One of my favourite American artists Susan Rothenberg painted a horse shape for 20 years, just working through that one shape and I could see the fascination in that but have not had the courage for that kind of process before now. I can be guilty in my life and art of always looking to the next thing and not fully delving into the present. Covid has caused us all to slow down and see what we need and not strive so much that less is perhaps more after all.


What has been a career highlight for you so far?

In terms of career highlights I guess I am more interested in experiences than cudo's. The friendships you develop with other artists and art related workers the collaborations like with you are all what I really enjoy. So I would have to say studying Painting in Venice in 2018 was an incredible experience and life highlight. I love to paint, I love to work, put me in a studio with a whole lot of other artists from around the world  and I am in heaven. Not just heaven but Italian heaven. What could be better?