Whatever Hour Your Woke There Was a Door Shutting with Fou Gallery

There Was a Door Shutting with Fou Gallery

In partnership with Fou Gallery, we’re thrilled to present Cathleen Clarke’s debut solo exhibition “Whatever Hour You Woke There Was a Door Shutting”. The exhibition runs from September 25th to November 28th, with an opening reception on September 25th, 4-8 PM

Fou Gallery: We are pleased to announce artist Cathleen Clarke’s solo exhibition: Whatever Hour You Woke There Was a Door Shutting will take place from September 25th to December 12th in 2021. The exhibition will present Clarke’s 16 oil paintings, mostly created in 2020 and 2021. Clarke seeks for inspiration from old photos and used objects. She is interested in the buried but unfading memories that awakens a common nostalgia of treasuring one’s past. Clarke’s contrast colors and flowing composition in her paintings capture the viewer’s attention with implicitness and mysteriousness. Through dramatically expressed daily scenes, her paintings seem to hide many untold but vivid stories under the moments frozen on her canvas.

Clarke is greatly influenced by the literature of the stream of consciousness. She depicts sentimental moments with non-linear narration, and thus creates plenty of flexibility to arouse the viewer’s multitudinous thoughts and to resonate with the concurrence of their sensations. Faces with ambiguous expressions, empty rooms with used and worn-out items, and aimless moments in a lively occasion with many participants, are usually representative images in her paintings.


All the People From Your Past, 2021. Oil and acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 inches ©Cathleen Clarke, courtesy of Fou Gallery and The Honey Pump 

All the People From Your Past and The Wedding Party are two representative examples of Clarke’s depiction of crowded occasions and people’s facial expressions in her typical style. In the green toned work All the People From Your Past, the blurred details of people’s faces don’t give any obvious hint of a specific mood, but the intenseness from the colors and the composition implies surging emotions that overflow in the scene, and arouses the viewer’s curiosity to explore more behind the scene. In the red toned work The Wedding Party, the similar painting technique is applied to the image, and makes the atmosphere of this lively moment distant and hazy, as if separated by a layer of woolen glass. The intentionally missing details and the slightly distorted lines resemble the impression in mind when trying to recall a recollection from a long time ago. In another painting, The Place on Shannon Lake, the subject of the image is a corner of a room and a burning candle on a table. The figure in the frame has begun to blur like a vanished memory, while the place of childhood memories in the photograph sandwiched between the edges of the frame is remarkably clear. The contrast between this clarity and blurring in the same image is also an interesting aspect of Clarke’s painting: the outline of memory is never continuous and sharp. It stays in fragments that are sometimes explicit and sometimes obscure. When looking back at the past, our memory is as intriguing as another world.


The title of the exhibition “Whatever Hour You Woke There Was a Door Shutting” is a quote from Virginia Woolf's short novel A Haunted House. As one of the most important modernist 20th-century authors and a pioneer in the use of stream of consciousness, Virginia Woolf is one of Clarke’s favorite authors. The way Woolf narrates her stories and her expression in the stream of consciousness, is what has inspired Clarke to capture and render those nostalgic moments to imply unknown epic life stories. During the exhibition, the space of Fou Gallery will be set up as an unoccupied apartment with left furniture covered by white cloth, aiming to create an atmosphere of an old space that was once full of lively life but has now been abandoned by its dwellers. Clarke’s paintings will be hung on the crumbling walls or placed on or next to the white cloth, reflecting those haunting memories from the misty past.

Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary, “I can only note that the past is beautiful because one never realizes an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don't have complete emotions about the present, only about the past.” As a painter, Clarke attempts to use her visual language to explore how the memory is connected to our emotions and how we interpret, beautify, or even fabricate our memories. Mysterious and nostalgic, Clarke’s paintings always easily evoke the deepest stirring from one’s most treasured past.

*This exhibition is supported by the City Artists Corps Grants program of NYFA