Red Spiral (1986)
About this artwork
Taking her inspiration from archaeological imagery, Kate Whiteford began incorporating symbols from ancient cultures into her work from around 1980. Fascinated by timeless symbols such as Roman urns and columns and Celtic and Pictish iconography, shapes such as the circle, spiral, and chevron lines seen in this painting, recur in her work. By taking signs from different ancient cultures, Whiteford removes their cultural references and explores their visual power, often using them on a large scale to increase their impact. Stripped to their essence, Whiteford questions whether the same shapes found in different cultures may essentially represent the same thing. For example, does the spiral always represent growth or life? Whiteford made a number of paintings and prints in red and green.
Kate Whiteford’s work is driven by an interest in the past, and in how we are affected by the traces and symbols it has left behind. Born in Glasgow, Whiteford gained both a practical and theoretical art education, studying drawing and painting at Glasgow School of Art from 1969-73, and History of Art at Glasgow University from 1974-76. She travelled to Rome in 1977 on a British Council scholarship, and was able to see the frescoes at Pompeii and Herculaneum, which greatly impressed her with their classical iconography and reduced colour-range. Since 1983, Whiteford’s work has been characterised by the use of bright colours, and is often made for a particular gallery space. She has also created large scale land-works. Whiteford was awarded an OBE in 2001.