Notes on the making of the series Dialogue with Kate

Sarah Tomasetti, 2010

I first met Kate Derum in 2006 attending a writing group run by Clara Brack.  I quickly grew to anticipate the poetic, capricious, unexpected nature of her writing and the equally intelligent feedback she gave in response to the work of others.  Our early exchange revolved around the construction of handmade books and the spontaneous play of images and text.  She mixed her own writing in with overheard phrases that functioned, as she put it, like the literary equivalent of the found object.

My last conversation with Kate was in April 2008, two months before an exhibition for which she had requested that I make end sheets for the large handmade book entitled About Now.

The following day doctors found the runaway cancer that was to claim Kate’s apparently vital, healthy life within 3 short months.

And so when Kate’s husband Brian asked me last year to respond to Kate’s work for the purpose of this exhibition, Something in the Air, I found myself dwelling as much in the suddenness of her death as in the memory of our exchange.  I still lament the absence of her voice at writing group.

I chose the many white ovals as an ethereal, feminine counterpoint to the dense gravity of Kate’s tableaux. Kate was fond of the juxtaposition of opposites and made many lists of these for her own reference. The number and scale of the ovals allowed for multiple explorations and failures.  I was drawn to paint Kate’s grandson, Hemi, about whom she often spoke and wrote.  Brian generously gave me access to Kate’s vast collection of notes and sketchbooks and I reproduced several of her last line drawings, which seemed to embody an incomprehensible knowing, as did her gaze in a series of late photographs.

I made drawings of parts of the yellow mountains, a favourite subject of mine and one that seems to echo the experience of wistfulness, of imminent disappearance. I returned also to the subject of the night path with its implication of unknown destination. Many images stubbornly aligned themselves with the edge of the canvas, as though just slipping into, or out of sight.  There are many more allusions to synchronicities, light hearted and otherwise, that existed between our practices.

Lastly the form of the heart; black or white in three dimensions, with the expected warmth of flesh reflected by the backs of the ovals, alludes on the one hand to the great pulsing rhythm of life and death that continues on unabated, and on the other, to the ecstasies of human emotion that accompany this endless drama, rendered no less intense by their inevitability.