THE CITY SUBMERGED NO 27
The City Submerged is a fluid, evolving archive of fragments, made in different places, at different times, but always referring back to a loosely connected set of nocturnal urban reflections. It started in 1991, and all the while that I was making these paintings I was thinking about Ballard’s vision of The Drowned World, a narrative in which everything is getting ready to just slide away.
I never illustrated Ballard’s work, but from the moment I read The Drowned World, in 1989, I understood that it would be a fairly influential book in my life and that Ballard was a kind of artist, a kindred spirit.
It seemed to me, even at the time, that The Drowned World was a very prescient book: the tides had risen, everything had been flooded and people lived in amongst that. But I wasn't necessarily interested in a post-apocalyptic representation. I didn't want my paintings to be sci-fi, I wanted them to be of the here and now.
What stayed with me from The Drowned Word was this sense that everything is in flux: social behaviour, the psychology of the people, the way of negotiating the world, the world itself. It helped to form a way of calibrating the world around me through this sensibility; a heightened awareness of territoriality, contingency, scarcity and fluidity.
I’ve never really thought of myself as a political artist, but these are things that I'm interested in thinking about. And I believe that in spite of (or partly because of) the superabundance of images in contemporary life it is plausible that painting can still be important. Because it is slow, it reveals itself over time, it demands engagement and offers a deep reflective space.
In The Drowned World, Ballard also presents a reflective space. His post-apocalyptic world is reflecting back to us our own world, not our own world as it was then, but our own world to come.
As a painter he is known for panoramic layered city vistas, fragmentary works and figurative groupings and has a long held preoccupation for the way human beings negotiate territories. Within his paintings, drawings and prints we see influences of contemporary global culture, the fluidity of life and recent history that range from science fiction and film through to urban social debates. His extensive travels in Asia and living in cities such as New York, London and Venice have deeply influenced his practice.
In 2006, Jon Cattapan was honoured with a major retrospective The Drowned World: Jon Cattapan works and collaborations at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne. In 2008 he took up a commission through the Australian War Memorial to become Australia’s 63rd Official war artist and was deployed to Timor Leste, where he explored Night Vision technology as an aesthetic tool, which continues to inform his work. In his most recent work the artist has returned to exploring figurative interplays as a way of commenting on our unstable times.
Cattapan was announced as the recipient of the Bulgari Art Award Fellowship in 2013 and in 2016 he won the Rockhampton Art Award. Cattapan’s works can be found in the collections of all Australian state museums and many regional galleries including the National Gallery of Australia, The National Gallery of Victoria, The Art Gallery of New South Wales, The Gallery of Modern Art/Queensland Art Gallery and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. His work is also held in major private and corporate collections.