Artist Profile

Norman Catherine

b. 1949, East London

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 now welds together found objects such as tin cans, wire, and bottle caps – the very things that kids in the townships collect to make toy cars and bicycles.

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.

1949 Born in East London, South Africa


1967-69: Studied at East London Technical College Art School

1970/1 Worked as a commercial artist in Johannesburg

1972 Started full-time art career

1973 Began working on Fook Island project with Prof. Walter Battiss

1975 Began building home called Fook Manor at Hartebeespoort Dam, South Africa

1978 Began working on Memo book with Allan Cameron

1981 Worked for R.O. Bloohman, New York, on animation project Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat

1984/5 Spent a year in Los Angeles and New York

1986 Spent three months in Los Angeles and New York

1986/7 Designed murals for Fook Island town house development in Pretoria on original property of Walter Battiss

1987-90 Designed Fook Island merchandising

1995 Book The Legend of Memo the Hierophant created with Allan Cameron, published by Orion in UK


1969 Herbert Evans Gallery, Johannesburg – first one man show, thereafter almost annually until
2002 Goodman Gallery [Johannesburg]

Group Exhibitions

1972: Galleria d’Arte L’Orizonte [Senigallia, Italy]

1973: Galerie Daniel Gervis [Paris, France]

1975: Art 6’75 [Basel, Switzerland]

1981: Republic Festival Art Exhibition [South Africa]
Art EXPO [San Francisco and Los Angeles, USA]
Defense Art Gallery [Paris, France]

1985: Soker-Kaseman Gallery, San Francisco, USA
Tributaries Exhibition [Johannesburg and Germany]
Cape Town Triennial [Cape Town]

1986 Area-X Gallery [New York, USA]

1987 Vita Art Now, Johannesburg Art Gallery, [Johannesburg]

1987 Art 18’87 [Basel, Switzerland]

1988 Vita Art Now, Johannesburg Art Gallery [Johannesburg]

1989 Art 20’89 [Basel, Switzerland]

1990 Voices from South Africa, Contemporary Art Against Apartheid, Stuart Levy Gallery [New York, USA]

1991 AA Life Vita Art Exhibition, [Johannesburg]

1991-2 Art from South Africa, Zabalaza Festival, Oxford Museum [Oxford,UK]

1993 Venice Biennial [Venice, Italy]
Graphica Creatva, [Jyvaskyla, Finland]

1994 Cuban Biennial [Havana, Cuba]
Ludwig Forum [Aachen, Germany]
In Full Colour, Les Sacks Fine Art [Los Angeles, USA]

1995 Seven Stories about Modern Art in Africa, Whitechapel Art Gallery [London, UK]
On the Road, Delfina Studio Trust Gallery [London, UK]
Mayibuye iAfrica, Bernard Jacobson Gallery [London, UK]
Kunsthal [Rotterdam, Netherlands]
Panoramas of Passage: Changing Landscapes of South Africa, Meridian Cafritz Galleries, [Washington, touring USA: Dallas, Atlanta, Detroit and Wilberforce, Ohio]

1996 Modern Kunst iAfrica, Malmo Kunsthall [Malmo, Sweden]
Eight from South Africa, Centre for the Arts, Yerba Buena Gardens [San Francisco, USA]
Common and Uncommon Ground, [Atlanta, USA]
Chicago Art Fair, [Chicago, USA]
Simmunye, Adelson Galleries [New York, USA]
Art 27’96 [ Basel, Switzerland]
Colours, Zeignossische Kunst aus Sudafrika, Haus der Kulturen der Welt [Berlin, Germany]

1997 South Africa, Kohn Turner Gallery [Los Angeles, USA]
Fin de Siecle, Michel Luneau Art Gallery [Nantes, France]

Awards and Publications:

1973 Art South Africa Today, Durban (Cambridge Shirt Award)

1981 Republic Festival Arts Exhibition, Durban (1st prize for Graphic Art)

1991 AA Life Vita Art Now 3rd quarterly Award (Shared with Andries Botha)

2000 Norman Catherine, Hazel Friedman,
The Dictionary of South African Painters and Sculptors, Grania Oglivie, Published Everard Read Gallery
Art and Artists of South Africa, Esme Berman
Resistance Art in South Africa, Sue Williamson
Revue Noire, South Africa, Art and Literature, 11 Dec1993 - Feb 1994

Public Collections

South African National Gallery, Cape Town
Johannesburg Municipal Art Gallery, Johannesburg
Pretoria Art Museum, Pretoria
Durban Art Gallery, Durban
Ann Bryant Art Gallery, East London
Sandton Municipal Art Gallery, Sandton
Oliwenhuis Art Museum, Bloemfontein
The Haenggi Foundation Inc, Switzerland
Pelmama Permanent Art Collection, Johannesburg
University of South Africa, Pretoria
Rand Afrikaans University, Johannesburg
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
University of Natal, Durban
Walter Battiss Museum, Somerset East
George IV Art Gallery, Port Elizabeth
Roodepoort Public Library, Roodepoort
Department of National Education, Carnegie Art Gallery, Newcastle
Gauteng Legislature, Johannesburg
Tatham Art Gallery, Pietermaritzburg
Boksburg Town Council Collection
William Humphreys Art Gallery, Kimberley

Corporate Collections

Chase Manhatten Bank, New York, USA
Mobil Court Art Collection, Cape Town
Volkskas Bank, Pretoria
Everite Ltd., Johannesburg
Premier Milling Co., Johannesburg
Trust Bank, Johannesburg
Bankorp, Johannesburg
Standard Bank, Johannesburg
Sasol Art Collection
World Bank, Johannesburg
Genkor, Johannesburg
World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland
Union Bank of Switzerland, Sandton
Telkom, Johannesburg