You work between France and the UK. Do you draw from the painting traditions of both countries, or do your inﬂuences come from elsewhere?
I get inspired by many diﬀerent traditions. I collect antique vases and pots, often from ﬂea markets or antique stores from all over the world. I have a fascination for ornaments and various surrealistic objects such as leaf plates, a watermelon letter holder or a lemon salt and pepper shake, these are a few of my own objects. I get inspired a lot by what’s around me and will add a surrealistic twist to it. I also think I kept some inﬂuences that I studied in art history and archaeology. My parents were greengrocers, so I have always been drawn to food and market / garden life.
Some of the objects in your paintings are realist and others more expressionist. What eﬀect do you hope to achieve by this combination of styles?
I don’t like to obey a certain style or composition, I love the freedom I get in my work. I enjoy mixing various inspirations and styles to make it my own.
Your still lifes of ﬂowers in vases have dramatic titles and a strong sense of mood and the passage of time. How do you think the still life form can contain all this emotion and time?
I feel like the fusion between shadow and light is very powerful. The shortness of this moment, waiting for that glowing golden hour to touch the still life. You never know how it’s going to react and it’s never exactly the same. I ﬁnd that fascinating and it deﬁnitely changed the way I work and the way I see light. All my work used to be very 2D and ﬂat, since the last couple of years I’m working more in 3D, thinking of how the composition could feel more voluminous by the use of shadows and various textures.
Your paintings often have strong light sources that create shadows, and sometimes the shadows are exaggerated. What do you convey with shadows?
Depending on where the shadow is coming from, the shadow can be exaggerated or blurred naturally. I chose to interpret it in a more surrealist way. I don’t wish to copy exactly what I see but give it my own interpretation. I usually saturate the palette a lot, to give it a more dramatic aspect.
Some of your compositions have a playful, geometric architecture. Are you referring to a certain modernist architecture? Do you consider your paintings from an architectural perspective?
I play around diﬀerent themes in my work: still lifes with shadows, surrealistic stills, architectural compositions and bathroom scenes. I get inspired by many architects but I’m particularly keen on Luis Barragàn’s work that I discovered some years ago. The way he thinks of lines and colour is amazing and mesmerising. Even in my still lifes with shadows, there’s always a game of lines. The light is depicted in a very straight, angular and architectural way.
What about plant life, and its interaction with vases, interests you? And how does this relate to your interest in water and marine life?
I collect plants, I love watching them grow and the way that they seem to be constantly dancing, in movement. They can also be surprising! During the second lockdown in the UK, I started painting ﬁsh in bowls, unconsciously. I then realised the symbolism behind it. I was myself feeling like a ﬁsh in a bowl, able to see the world but not touch it. I have since been painting many diﬀerent ﬁsh and tried many diﬀerent combinations. My favourite so far remains the ﬁsh vase. This is a theme I am still in constant exploration.
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Cathy’s Instagram: @cathytabbakh
Interview by Christian Prince.