Other Name: Catherine Elaine Morrisey
– Catherine Morrisey (Westland Gallery, 2016)
Born in Brampton, Ontario, Catherine Morrisey grew up in Port Credit near Toronto and from an early age was active in dance, painting, canoeing, and camping. At York University, she studied with artists Ron Bloore, William Ronald, Tim Whiten, Doug Morton, Ted Bieler, and critics John Bentley Mays, and Michael Greenwood. After obtaining her degree she went to explore Western Canada.
In 1976, she returned to Toronto to study painting at Art’s Sake, Inc., and in 1977, won the Royal Bank of Canada Award for Emerging Artists. She worked as a gallery assistant to Anita Aarons at the Harbourfront Art Gallery, as a studio assistant to Robert Markle, and in art supplies.
While living at the Coffin Factory, she became part of the vibrant art scene of Toronto. The eclectic mix of painters, musicians, and writers from different generations saw her become neighbors with Gershon Iskowitz, Lynn Donahue, Harold Klunder, Rae Johnson, and Lorne Wagman. The Artists’ Jazz Band (Graham Coughtry, Gordon Rayner, and Robert Markle) often played in her studio at the Coffin Factory.
She moved to London in 1984 to study Library Science at Western University and, upon graduation, worked as a librarian for London Public Libraries, as a curator at Historical Museums, and as sessional teacher at Fanshawe College. She also continued her painting practice and exhibited in several group shows at Forest City Gallery and Gibson Gallery.
With her husband, musician Eric Stach, she moved to Sarasota, Florida in 1996 to work at Sarasota Libraries. While there, she painted local subjects and exhibited in group shows.
Returning to Canada, Morrisey became a Library Manager at D.B. Weldon Library, Western University, in 2002 where she remained until her retirement in 2014. In 2004, she and her husband bought and converted the building that used to house the Gord Louck’s auto body shop. Many were impressed by the transition from auto body shop into a music and art studio. The couple hosted an annual summer music series and art exhibitions from 2005 to 2016. Some of the solo art shows included Bernice Vincent, Iain Turner, Brian Saby, Gerald Pedros, Pat Thibert, Noel Sargeant, Susan Day, Ruth Strebe, Aidan Urquhart, and Jeff Willmore. More than 200 musicians with a wide range of backgrounds have played free improvised jazz in the studio.
In 2013, she and her husband were awarded the London Heritage Award by the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario and the London Heritage Foundation. The award was given for their restoration of the old building and for their commitment to preserving London’s heritage. She received a second award in 2017 for the restoration of a yellow brick Victorian cottage on Clarence Street.
Over the years she has sketched and painted the Thames River by kayak, from the old Victoria Hospital to the Labatt’s brewery. She made large oil paintings on canvas with multiple panels to create a feeling of space. She has exhibited in group and solo shows in galleries around London, such as McIntosh Gallery, Museum London, Westland Gallery, The Art Exchange, and Spencer Gallery, D.B. Weldon Library, Western University.
Many of her paintings are of overgrown garden beds, ancient trees and riverbanks which are painted in vibrant colours. Her paintings are a celebration of the natural beauty of London.
Biography by Renée Pascual
“Awards: Past Award Winners.” Architectural Conservancy Ontario – London Region. http://www.acolondon.ca/acoLondon/Awards.html
Reaney, James Stewart. “Reaney’s Pick: Studio wins for enlivening SoHo.” The London Free Press (lfp.com), February 6, 2013. http://www.lfpress.com/2013/02/06/reaneys-pick-studio-wins-for-enlivening-soho.
Wallace, Janice. “Preserving the historic Ontario cottage, while costly, is seen as a boost to the entire SoHo neighbourhood.” The London Free Press (lfp.com), February 24, 2017. http://www.lfpress.com/2017/02/23/preserving-the-historic-ontario-cottage-while-costly-is-seen-as-a-boost-tothe-entire-soho-neighbourhood.
“The Secrets of Creativity.” The Westland Gallery (blog), April 13, 2016. http://www.westlandgallery.ca/blog/april-13th-2016.
I fell in love with art when I realized I didn’t have a choice. I might have been two.
I was handed a paintbrush in a field when my mother and granny were painting a church. It is still vivid in my mind. Their paintings were extraordinarily beautiful. Mine was a mess, of course, and I cried.
Like most painters, my approach is intuitive and tentative. I start with an idea and find my way as I go. I have to be open to moments of delight and surprise. I need to be in the moment to achieve loose graceful brushstrokes. If there is any part of me that wants to please other people, those brushstrokes will feel stiff and self conscious, and the painting will fail.
I am inspired by ancient Chinese landscape paintings that depict vast distances and timelessness. I admire the exquisite brush strokes of black ink on white rice paper. I like how those landscapes feel inviting, familiar, peaceful. Those paintings come from a different time and culture, yet they are completely accessible to us.
I have been studying Bonnard’s paintings. He builds colour by layering transparent brush scumbles of different colours. He builds his compositions like whimsical patchworks of colour blocks. He paints domestic scenes in his home and countryside. I learn from his elegant colour and the affection he conveys.
My goal is to celebrate our local woods and river, waterlilies and willows, turtles and geese, our village. In my paintings I freely adapt traditions of Chinese painting and Bonnard’s colour methods. When I kayak on the river, I experience timelessness and surprise, wonder and delight. These are the feelings I want to share.
CV Courtesy of Catherine Morrisey
A Driving Force interview conducted by MacKenzie Brash and Nicole McIlwain
M.A. Public History Program, Western University
Nicole Coenen, VideographerRead More
A Driving Force Interview: Catherine Morrisey