Caterina Leone is a Melbourne-based artist revitalising the historic drawing technique of silverpoint to create intimate self-portraits that question societal notions of gender. Born in Sydney, she studied at the National Art School and worked in arts administration, writing and curating before moving to Melbourne in 2017 to pursue her own art practice. Caterina’s interest in art began in childhood, inspired by her artist and designer grandfather, whose artistic ability helped him survive POW camps in Germany during WWII and who studied under Communist rule in Ukraine. Consequently her conception of art is defined by a belief that it must attempt to transform, redeem and challenge the self and society.
Her work has been featured in online and print publications, most recently in Synaesthesia Magazine in April 2018. She was the guest editor of The Journal of Australian Ceramics for the July 2014 edition, and she continues to have articles and reviews published in a range of newspapers and magazines. Caterina has been included in numerous group exhibitions and juried art shows in both NSW and Victoria, with a solo exhibition in January 2018 followed in September by inclusion in The Way We See Ourselves, a group exhibition at West End Art Space that was selected for the 2018 Melbourne Fringe Festival. Her most recent solo exhibition was held at Rubicon ARI in June 2019, after which she showed alongside Lily Mae Martin at Scott Livesey Gallery and in January 2020, with forty other Australian artists in Antipodes 2020 at BeinArt Gallery, which was covered by The Age.
In December 2019, Caterina undertook a month-long residency in Finland. The work begun at this residency was shown at Tinning St Presents in May 2021.
Caterina inserts herself into the religious, mythological and art historical iconographies that have fascinated her since childhood, and which, due to her biological sex, hold conflicting connotations of exclusion and reverence. By recreating this imagery in her own image, in disregard of sex and the gender binary, she removes the barriers to her inclusion. In doing so, the artist is able to explore her identity and how it has been shaped by patriarchal, societal ideas of femininity. Her combination of silverpoint – a largely forgotten, pre-graphite way of drawing with precious metals such as silver – with contemporary mediums like spray paint, is a means of exploring this inner conflict in her choice of materials as well as subject matter.
Her most recent body of work, titled Luminä – a combination of the Finnish words for snow and self – was a series of self-portraits inspired by a residency in Finland during the winter of 2019. Working in silverpoint (drawing with silver and gold), the artist placed herself naked in the snowy landscape, slowly dissolving into the earth as the works progress. They are explorations of her contradictory desire to be immersed in the landscape, even to lose all sense of self in unity with it; and the knowledge that this is, at least physically, impossible.
What does “Gaze” mean to you & how do you connect it to your work?
I speak my “truth” mostly through the eyes of my portrI believe women’s self portraiture is of vital and larger importance than the individual. It is a way of asserting autonomy, rebelling against the passivity and superficial perfection expected of women and recapturing the gaze for ourselves. For most of my life I felt that my body and face were for others. They existed to be viewed and I capitulated to that gaze. Now through self-portraiture, I reclaim my body, use it loudly, proudly, as weapon. I subvert the poses of women in historic works that displayed the female nude for male gratification, hidden under a guise of moralising and simultaneously condemning and glorifying that which they portrayed. Other works of mine comment on the continued, sexist censoring of women’s nipples in social media, or the complexities of self-objectification. The male gaze has had a huge impact on my life and identity. My art is an attempt to understand how, why and to heal from this.