Jim Cathcart: A Retrospective Exhibition
7 - 22 July 2023
Opening 7 July at 6pm
Rua Red is hosting a retrospective exhibition of the work of the late Jim Cathcart, a local artist and activist. The exhibition features a selection of works from Cathcart’s extensive practice spanning over 30 years. Jim Cathcart graduated from Glasgow School of Art, living and working in Dublin since 1998, and was a resident studio artist in Rua Red from 2011 - 2015.
As a visual artist, Cathcart’s work included printmaking, drawing, painting, murals, banners, and poster design. In addition to exhibiting in galleries in Scotland and Ireland, his work found its way into a variety of public, community, and commercial spaces.
As an arts activist, he was an advocate for socially relevant approaches to art. In his early career, while attending art school, he and some friends formed a socially and politically engaged artist collective. From there, in what seems now a logical almost inevitable move as art activists, they began to investigate and experiment with community-based arts. Throughout his practice Jim was involved in a long-term quest for socially relevant approaches to art. This led to a number of innovative roles in youth and community-based arts in Scotland and Ireland.
Image: Part of The Beachcombers Series by Jim Cathcart. Photo by Renate Canga
“Jim was a committed socialist who put his principles into practice throughout his life. Following art school Jim worked in a range of community projects. He was Artist in Residence in his hometown of East Kilbride. He loved working with the young trainees and volunteers and was very proud of their achievements. He then ran Easterhouse Arts Project, organising traditional music classes, festivals, and exhibitions before moving to Ireland.
I first met Jim at Rua Red in 2011 where he had a studio. During that time, he was engaged with epic paintings – portraits of workers. His resulting exhibition ‘Them that work the hardest’ (2014) at Draiocht was inspiring.
In 2015 Jim moved to the Tallaght Community Arts Making Space where he set up his new studio. He worked with participants from Dominic’s Community Centre on printmaking. In 2016 Jim created a huge banner of the Proclamation of the Republic with local participants. It was hung outside the Civic Theatre as part of dawn to dusk readings of the proclamation in different languages. It now hangs in the County Library Tallaght.
In 2018 Jim with his community printmakers again created a huge print of a horse for the annual Unwrapped that encompassed the front window of The Civic. Jim’s community projects were a testament to his immense talent to inspire participants to create collective arts works.
Jim loved to talk about the politics of community, I loved his Glaswegian sharpness and the fact that he took no hostages politically. Jim’s work was embedded in a practice that celebrated the humanity and dignity of ordinary people.
This exhibition Jim Cathcart: A Retrospective Exhibition, is a testament to all that Jim stood for as an artist and a humanist. "
- Tony Fegan, Director of Tallaght Community Arts
Rua Red Studio Artist Spotlight
Interviewed by Heather Byrne in 2013
HB: Who are you / what are you all about?
JC: I’m Jim Cathcart, a visual artist (based in Studio 5 at RUA RED) and sometimes tutor, arts co-ordinator, researcher, and consultant. These roles have all been part of trying to work out what artists and arts should be all about these days. This is still an ongoing conundrum.
HB: What are you working on right now?
JC: I’ve been up to my elbows in ink making mono-prints and also working on some doodles for the next big projects. (See photos)
HB: Where’ll this take you? What do you hope to be doing for the next 6 months – 1 year?
JC: I think the mono-prints will lead to some printmaking workshops being offered in the near future. At the other end of the scale, I’ll be working on a series of large hangings, in effect mobile murals, dealing with themes of work and unemployment.
HB: How did you get into this line of work? What’s your background?
JC: I attended Glasgow School of Art in my homeland and with some friends formed a socially and politically engaged artist collective. From there, in what seems now a logical almost inevitable move as art activists, we began to investigate and experiment with community-based arts. Recently I’ve been pursuing a renewed personal compulsion to make art.
HB: You’re quite involved in community arts. How do you find this?
JC: I’ve been involved in many different ways in community-based arts. It has challenges, particularly in learning to work collaboratively but also rewards. It’s been great to see what different people will do when they decide to get their hands on art. If supported and sustained, it’s often more interesting and significant than what the artistic cognoscenti come up with.
HB: Where/who do you take influence from?
JC: There are numerous artists whose work fascinates me but I’d be reticent to ascribe influence though as that might invite comparison, not great for the ego. In terms of ideas and motivation, at the moment I find myself being influenced by the way some musicians and songwriters deal with the world around them.
HB: What is a normal day in your studio like?
JC: The only constant is the radio. Otherwise, it might be a day of inking and cleaning slabs, a day of making doodles and sketches, or going up and down the scaffold with brushes and paint.
HB: If you could do it all again what would you do differently?
JC: Most things I’ve been involved in were attempts to do things differently from what had gone before, so bearing that in mind I’d probably do it all over again. I would probably pay more attention to recording what we were doing and why. That might have helped me answer your first question on what I’m all about.
HB: Do you have any advice for budding/new artists?
JC: There are so many approaches to art and ways to be an artist, as an individual, and in the community. Try and enjoy finding out about them and take some time to discover what feels right for you. And don’t forget to win the lotto.
HB: Any upcoming projects/exhibitions you’d like to plug?
JC: There will be an exhibition in Draiocht Arts Centre in spring 2014 based around the mobile mural project. So at this point, it’s more of an early warning than a plug but I’ll get back to you nearer the time. (Jim’s Studio will be open as part of Culture Night on Sep 21st from 5pm – 8pm)