Red alert. Red rag to a bull. The colour red conjures up powerful images; few other shades convey emotion with such ease. As such, it was unsurprising that Kate Walter’s ‘Pictures for my Parents’ exhibit at the Surface Gallery, a collection of pieces exclusively in red watercolour, were robust and raw, leaping off of the canvas as if painted with lifeblood itself.

A prolific talent, Walter is currently touring her work around the country with the aid of the Jerwood Drawing Prize, an award for which she was shortlisted. ‘Pictures for my Parents’ was born after Walter came to the realisation that none of her work would ever been seen by her parents again, both of them having passed away by 2003. The result was an emotionally charged display. Deceptively simple, biological themes such as life and death were coupled with a healthy splash of mysticism and fantasy. Particularly noteworthy were her somewhat harrowing depictions of the infant form in politically charged manifestations such as abortion. This demonstrates the powerful feminine consciousness running throughout Walter’s work, indicative of her declared admiration for the works of Frida Kahlo.

Walter uses a method of ‘deliberate practise’, in which she seeks to push herself to produce work emanating from her innermost emotions. The exhibition has a soulful resonance, as if these really are pieces Walter has given life to. Even though the dozen or so pieces are similar, and artistically simple, it feels like they all exude a unique story, each an individual eulogy to an aspect of her life with her parents.

On her work, Walter has stated that in the five years since the death of her parents, red has been the only colour she reaches for. I see no reason why she should be in any hurry to reach for anything else.

Jason Gregory

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