Key facts about the artist

Untitled (2013)

Wilkes makes installations, sculpture and paintings
Venice Biennale
Turner Prize Nominee 2008
Pollokshields, Glasgow


Video: Cathy Wilkes at Tramway, 2014

About Cathy's work

Cathy Wilkes is best known for her imaginary environments, which variously recall interiors: the sickroom, the deathbed, places of loss and catastrophe. 

Wilkes makes installations, sculpture and paintings, experimenting with all kinds of media and materials, including paper cloth and clay, and collecting treasures and ingredients, which together have made a body of work spanning twenty-five years. Production or what we see in the end is the accumulation of all of these constituent parts. Equally important, though, are the contemplative, sensorial experiences for which it stands. 

To make art is to conceive of something outside body and mind; to release and expand ourselves beyond what defines one human being as separate from others. This opening out is a thrilling and terrifying endeavour full of mystery, which Wilkes has described as a transforming force of nature. The artist’s work, which is fiercely introspective, challenges us to consider the impossibility of a clear meaning, why something is as it is or why it is there at all, but also the mysterious place where art moves inside us.

Wilkes’s work Untitled (Possil, at last) (2013) was included in the exhibition The Encyclopedic Palace at the 55th Venice Biennale (2013). Here, four child-like figures in antique clothing and bonnets stand around a male figure who is crouched over an empty bottle. There are two infants, one is a bride; another figure might be a shepherd. As if in a garden, a taller girl stands before an expanded field of broken pieces, unearthed from the ground where Possil Pottery once stood. ‘The work is inhabited by both the living and the dead,’ the artist says. ‘Then it’s understood that there is both materialisation and disappearance of physical things. It’s understood that it is a natural retreat from material reality. It’s understood that the forces of nature are electric and defining.’ Wilkes’s exhibition for GENERATION continues these themes, engaging with the fabric and raw materials of Tramway’s gallery space.



Cathy Wilkes (born 1966 in Belfast) is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential artists working in the UK today. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art in 1988, represented Scotland in the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005 and was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2008. Selected solo exhibitions have been held at: Xavier Hufkens, Brussels (2013); The Modern Institute, Glasgow (2012); The Renaissance Society, University of Chicago (2012); Gesellschaft für aktuelle Kunst, Bremen (2011); and Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh (2011). Group exhibitions include: The Encyclopedic Palace, Venice Biennale (2013); The Assistants, David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles (2013); Love is Colder than Capital, Kunsthaus Bregenz (2013); Studio 58: Women Artists in Glasgow Since World War II, Mackintosh Museum, Glasgow School of Art (2007); Selective Memory, Scottish Pavilion, Venice Biennale and Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (2005); and Beck’s Futures, ICA, London (2000). She lives and works in Pollokshields, Glasgow.

More information

Emma Dean and Michael Stanley (eds), Cathy Wilkes, Milton Keynes Gallery, 2008

Cathy Wilkes, Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, Colorado, 2011

Cathy Wilkes in conversation with Bart Van Der Heide, in Cathy Wilkes, Kunstverein, Munich, 2011

Elsewhere on the web