Exhibition: Teen Age – Cathy Ward

Usurp Art Gallery
17th April – 30th May 2010

From Teddy Boys to Emos, whichever generation you belong to, there will be teenage hairstyles through which you rebelled, after which you lusted, from which you  ran away, at which you laughed.  In actuality time may have diminished their power – the hair length for which the 17 year old David Bowie created the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired Men, now looks positively tame – but hairstyles are more often than not  intertwined with our most powerful memories of our teenage life.

In her highly evocative new exhibition, Teen Age, Cathy Ward who is renowned for phenomenally intricate and beautiful drawings and paintings of hair, has  returned to the youthcultures of her own teenage years and to the definition of contemporaries by their hairstyles and musical tastes. Below she describes her motivations and inspirations for the exhibition, and how it became a far more intimate journey and exhibition than she first imagined.



by Cathy Ward

A child in the 60’s, teenager in 70’s, unemployed 20 something in the 80’s. I grew up in a time of defiant youth culture. One could move into different groups of people that were mostly defined by their hairstyle and music taste. The 70’s were fantastically experimental, a fertile breeding ground for creating strong individuals. My defiant sensibilities were well established by the time punk arrived. A reaction initially teased out by the greaser-bikers I’d hung out with in my ween-teens. Motorbikes, Heavy Metal, ‘Snake bites’ (cider and lager), Hickies and those illicit parties in  straw-cut fields accompanied by exciting police raids. My hair was short by the age of 14, and for some inexplicable reason I started collecting and bagging the trimmings. Sunk and Age of Reason are painted with applied ground hair harvested from my teens and 20’s eras. Sunk, is an apocalyptic mire of teenage angst, my very own Passchendaele; Age of Reason seems calm, measured, an idealistic pasture forever draining away with a looming tornado. Glass paintings Forever and Passing reflect later passages of my life and romance, incorporating beautiful, yet tarnished objects of sentimental value.

The next group I moved into was the long-haired dangerous lot, whose long hair made them stand out as rebels though certainly no hippies. They were older, into drugs and music in a really big way. It was more dangerous, so more alluring, they knew how and where to party all the time. Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa were major players in the look and their sound followed us everywhere, in every smoke filled car, skinning joints, dropping acid and speeding up motorways at night, playing on space invader machines at motorway cafes …..

My drawings have developed over 15 years and depicting hair is a natural course in my work. As some of the big players in my life from that time died tragically young, it was their hair that began to subconsciously come through in my work and the places we had been appeared within my lines as places I was yet to arrive at. The work transcended what was initially a remembrance and became a tapping in of an internal landscape, an uncovering of a very personnel and buried world. Joy Divisions Unknown Pleasures was an album that’s sound and artwork made a great impression on me.


Cathy Ward’s drawings have been commissioned by Steven Severin (founder of Siouxsie and the Banshees) and Stephen O Malley for SUNN 0)))’s 7th album Monoliths & Dimensions 2009. O’Malley’s Keep an Eye Out accompanies her animation Sonafeld, which features in Teen Age, screened on two monitors. As does Ward’s animated film, Passing, made with Eric Wright and featuring a soundtrack composed by Peter Wyer  and narration by L.M. Kit Carson (screen writer of Paris Texas).

Teen Age Cathy Ward runs from 17th April to 30th May 2010
at Usurp Art Gallery,  140 Vaughan Road,  London HA1 4EB
(By undergroud, Usurp is 2 minutes walk from West Harrow station which is 20 mins from Baker Street station on the Metropolitan Line)
Open Thursday – Sunday, 2pm – 8pm

Last Sunday of Teen Age Special Event
From 4pm – 8pm, on 30th May to mark the final day of  Teen Age, there will be a performance in the gallery featuring: Adam Bohman (amplified objects), Leila Dear (Theremin & FX), Mark Pilkington (synthesiser), Rodrigo Montoya (shamisen), Steve Beresford (electronics/objects), Tania Chen (electronics/objects),  Zali Krishna (guitar & FX) and (hopefully) Andrew Bailey (paraphanalia & toy instruments).

Cathy Ward: www.catharyneward.com
Usurp Gallery: www.usurp.org.uk

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