Bright, beautiful, inviting. The work of Cathy Tabbakh @cathytabbakh has been a real brightening and delightful presence on my Instagram feed for months now.
Tabbakh completed her BA in Lyon in Fashion Textiles and Fine Art, but now lives and works in London. I discovered her work first through the fabulous Artist Support Pledge Scheme, and have been obsessed ever since.
I was lucky enough to work with Tabbakh for my recent take over of @theartswap2020, and was also thrilled to have her agree to an interview with me recently.
Together we discuss her artistic influences, her vibrant colour palette, 80s and 90s French pop, as well as foods as our secret indulgences…
Who what or where are your influences. Do these come out in your work in obvious ways?
David Hockney definitely has had a big influence on my work. I properly fell in love with his work at his 2017 retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. There was room after room filled with all his different phases, from abstract paintings to photography, drawings to still lives, and of course his brilliant swimming pool series. I also get inspired by contemporary design, architecture and interiors. Usually filled with plants. I have a collection of about 25 plants at home, which I use as models constantly.
I also use many objects that I collect as decoration for my own home such as: asian vases, diverse pottery and ceramic objects, golden art deco mirrors etc.
You majored in Fashion Textile, your earlier work was very abstract, and then portraiture focused? How would you describe your journey and your current work?
When I was 18, I loved fashion, fabrics and colours. My first BA in Lyon was a mix between fashion textiles and fine art. I then started exploring abstraction as I discovered the work of Nicolas de Stael. Later on, I decided to try portraiture and mainly painted portraits of lovers and friends. A few years later I decided to study art history and archaeology, as I felt the need for further academic training. I wasn’t really focused on painting professionally back then, it was more a side-passion. It’s only fairly recently, I would say about two years ago, that I started to feel the ‘need’ to paint. Therefore I decided to pursue it as a career. Living in London and being able to see so many exhibitions by so many great artists and discovering the gallery world helped push me. I feel like it took me time and perseverance before believing that I could be an artist and make a living out of it. And WORK WORK WORK!
Tell us about your incredible colour palette? How do you use colour?
I love mixing textures and techniques. I usually use ink and watercolour as a first layer and then work around the composition with acrylic and/ or oil paint. Finishing up with oil pastels and acrylic markers to accentuate or blurr different areas. I think colour is the most important element in my practise. I guess I play mainly with blues, reds, greens and whites but this can change a lot. I love getting out of my comfort zone, so will try new combinations often to spice up my palette.
What do you want your work to say?
I want my paintings to be used to escape, worry free, with colours that captivate the mind. I don’t see the “decorative” side of it as a bad connotation but a rather positive and warm one.
Favourite music to paint to?
A lot of French 80’s and 90’s pop, Serge Gainsbourg of course and some tropical vibes! Or many various playlists that my husband Zach curates for me.
What are your key artist essentials?
Books, a museum card, water and a studio space filled with paints and brushes.
Do you have a secret indulgence in life? And do you have a life philosophy?
Eating ice-cream all year long! Cheesy and corny but simply do whatever makes you feel good otherwise it’s just not worth it...
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
I do believe that artists should paint whatever they want, whenever they want and however they want. Not following any trends and social pressures.
Favourite historical female artist?
I have a soft spot for Tamara de Lempicka. I love her art deco style and the gorgeous women she painted with full red lips. But I’m also really keen on her still lives. She painted textiles like no other artists. Playing with shadows and texture, simply beautiful!
Who should She Curates interview next?
I could name many… but if I was to pick a contemporary emerging artist, I would go with
Kate Mary. I love her architectural pastel scenes.
Is there anything else you want to say?
Simply thanks for your support Mollie, and a thank you to all the artists out there supporting me too! Cheers