Catherine Kurtz was born in Cambridge in 1969, was brought up in London and now lives in Kent. She completed an art foundation at Wimbledon School of Art, before studying Fine Art at Chelsea School of Art under Lucy Jones, Clyde Hopkins, Tony Fry and David Hepher, among others. She also had some illustrious contemporaries: Chris Ofili and Neal Tait in her own year, and Gavin Turk in the year above.
Upon graduating, Kurtz was made artist-in-residence at the Royal Ballet School. In addition to her career as an artist, Kurtz is a writer. Kurtz has been exhibiting with the Redfern since the early 1990s.
In much of her work, Kurtz has dealt with the treatment and portrayal of women in popular culture, examining and depicting ‘female’ objects with a wry sense of humour. To this end Kurtz painted isolated studies of women’s shoes, underwear, and make-up, each subject exposing an aspect of the objectification of women and girls.
A more recent series has seen Kurtz explore fabrics, using scraps that might suggest lingerie, dress fabric, or upholstery samples. Each material is intended as a metaphor to explore the expectations imposed on women. As the artist explains, “each piece of fabric is a choice, a possibility, a persona, an ideal woman, pressure, potential failure”.
While these fabrics are torn off and hung on jagged nails, Kurtz has also turned her attention to a series of paintings of birds and butterflies pinned, hung up, flightless in death. The pinned butterflies in particular continue the themes of her previous work, in that the “butterfly is pinned down, killed for its beauty, its vitality cut off, controlled, owned by the collector”. In her intimate studies of dead birds found in the countryside around her home, Kurtz has said how “this beauty in death, before decay has set in, is a very tender and mysterious moment”.