Norman Catherine is one of South Africa's leading contemporary artists, having earned a solid reputation as critic of the apartheid regime, and educator and promoter of black artists. Throughout his career, he has had 25 solo exhibitions, the most recent at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg.
As both a sculptor and painter, Catherine works in an assortment of media ranging from oil, acrylic, watercolour, and airbrush, to wood, fibreglass, wire, and metal. He incorporates surrealistic elements into his work, using humour with a dark overtone to confront the horrors of apartheid. A boat floats in a blood-red river, a young man poses with a gas mask, a series of seated figures glare at the viewer with macabre expressions. Catherine's early work – meticulously airbrushed in a photo-realistic style – has ceded to mixed media assemblages.
Catherine grew up in East London, where he studied at the East London Technical School of Art. He began his career as a commercial artist in the early 1970s in Johannesburg. Shortly thereafter, he began collaborating with Walter Battiss on a project on Fook Island, which involved the building of Fook Manor at Hartebeespoort Dam, designing murals and merchandising.
For a period of almost 20 years, he prepared with Allan Cameron the design of a book, The Legend of Memo the Hierophant, which was finally published in 1995. Catherine has spent time working overseas, in New York and Los Angeles, on various projects including the animation for Stravinsky's L'histoire du soldat.
He has represented South Africa in major international exhibitions such as the Venice Biennale and Art Basel, and has been included in numerous important shows in New York, Los Angeles, London and Berlin.