Catherine Elwes studied Fine Art at the Slade School of Art, and graduated with an MA in Environmental Media from the Royal College of Art, London in 1983. In the late 1970s she was a member of the Women Artists’ Collective and Women’s Art Alliance. She co-curated two landmark feminist exhibitions, ‘Women’s Images of Men’ and ‘About Time’, both held at the ICA in London in 1980. From the early 1980s onwards she began specialising in video and time-based media works, exploring representation and the body, gender and identity. She has participated in multiple international festivals, recently including the ‘British Art Show’ in Australia; ‘Video Brazil’ in Sao Paulo, Brazil; ‘Recent British Video’ in New York, USA; and ‘Video In/Out’ in Vancouver, Canada.
An internationally established artist, critic and expert in early moving image culture, Elwes’ diverse practice includes video, performance and installation, writing, curating and teaching. She is the author of Video Art – A guided Tour (I.B. Tauris, 2005), Installation and the Moving Image (Wallflower Press, 2015), and regularly writes for publications such as Filmwaves & Vertigo, and contributed to numerous publications and exhibition catalogues, including Third Text, Contemporary Magazine, and Art Monthly. In 2012, Elwes founded the international journal Moving Image Review and Art Journal (MIRAJ) in collaboration with Intellect Books. From 1998 until 2003, she was Director of the UK/Canadian Video Exchange, a biennial festival that featured video from across Canada and the UK and in 2006, she co-curated Analogue, an international exhibition of early video art from the UK, Canada and Poland, which was held at several international venues including Tate Britain and Tate Modern during 2006 – 2007.
Interview of Catherine Elwes
View the interview transcript here
New Ways of Seeing and Being Seen, Women’s Art Alliance London; Kvindegalleriet, Copenhagen; Women’s Festival, Action Space London
London Video Arts, Acme Gallery, London
About Time, ICA, London; Arnolfini, Bristol; Third Eye, Glasgow; The Basement, Newcastle
Women Live performance festival, Newcastle; London
Recent British Video New York
Cross Currents, RCA Galleries and touring
British/Canadian Video Exchange, Toronto
British Art Show Australia; Tate Gallery London
Deconstruction tour, Holland; UK; European; New Zealand venues
Third Generation: Women Sculptors Today, Drew Galley Canterbury
Incidentally, Winchester Gallery and touring
The Video Postcard Album, Air Gallery, London
Elusive Sign, tour Austria, Japan, Hong Kong, Tate Gallery, London and European venues.
Electric Eyes, tour
Acts of Remembrance, Harris Museum, Preston
Airtime, Air Gallery, London
Subversive Cuts ICA, London; City Art Gallery Southampton
The Impulsive Image, Camden, Parkways Cinemas
Mothers, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham
This Side of the Channel, ICA, London
20 years of London Electronic Arts, ICA, London
Video Visions ICA, London
Photo ’98 Leeds General Hospital, Leeds
Mother Nature Video Media Arts Centre, Guelph
Sweetie festival, Rome and touring.
SCREENINGS AT FILM AND VIDEO FESTIVALS
(summary since 1981)
Second International Independent Video Festival
Video Roma Festival
Rennes Semaine de Video
Voir des Videos, Brussels
London Film Festival
Stijlloos Festival, Rotterdam
Video Brazil, Sao Paulo
Kuopio International Festival
Imagensy Relaciones, Madrid
Video In/Out, Vancouver
One Minit Festival, Brazil
Sanyo Mail Order, Osaka
British Art Show, Australia
Recent British Video, New York.
Two Drawings on Glass with Adrian Gill
Cate and Shauna Play Quietly
The Critic’s Informed Viewing
There is a Myth
First House (installation)
(Wishing) Well (installation)
Introduction to Summer
Le Refus de la Honte (installation)
The Liaison Officer
Car Park Greeting
Quotes:"Feminist video artist and writer Catherine Elwes (1952-, France) identified some of her reasons for taking up video as opposed to film in the late 1970s. Citing the influences of both Structural/Materialist film and Laura Mulvey's classic 1973 paper 'Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema':
'I think initially it was an impatience with painting ... I needed a more direct and immediate way of communicating the stories that were in my head and that I was trying to get out ... For me the difference between film and video was like the difference between painting and drawing.'
'What put me off about film, principally, was the fact that I couldn't see it ... I also didn't like the waiting ... Video was a bit like having a pencil with a rubber. I could put something down, and if I didn't like it I could just rub it out. To me it was much closer to drawing and that's why I felt an affinity with it ... I didn't think much about television ... I had absorbed a lot of theories ... that had come down from 'Structural-Materialist' film ... I started working with performance first, and then incorporated video into the performance, then abandoned performance and worked exclusively on tape ... The only difficulty was that having abandoned the history of art, you took on the history of film. You were suddenly doing battle with the history of film and television. It's a different set of problems. The things that Laura Mulvey talked about - the gaze of the camera, whether it was possible to appropriate the gaze, and what you needed to do. How you convinced your audience that it was a female sensibility that was being expressed.'"
-Chris Meigh-Andrews, A History of Video Art, The Development of Form and Function. Berg, 2006. Catherine Elwes in conversation with the author, 24 July 2000. www.meigh-andrews.com
"Like many women artists of the time, I drew on autobiographical material and I followed the feminist principle of consciousness-raising in which women exchanged accounts of their lives and applied a wider political analysis to their personal experiences. This gave rise to the slogan 'The Personal is Political' and so provided the philosophical and methodological basis of my work for many years. Video offered the perfect medium within which to explore autobiography and manifestations of the self. The technology produced instant image feedback and could easily be used in a private space like a mirror, the images accepted or wiped according to the perceived success of the recording."
-Catherine Elwes (2000) Video Loupe, KT Press, London, p.9.