For the Chat Blanc Project, Caitlin Richards has created 20 illustrations that correspond with each of the movements in Satie’s Sports et divertissements. These images will be presented together with Satie’s music and text at Chat Blanc: Shadows and Light on Erik Satie, May 25-27, at the Campus Saint Jean Auditorium. In the following article Caitlin provides some context for interpreting these images and describes her creative process.
Each image begins with an intuitive line. Portrait of Erik Satie originates from an ink spill and the line running from it becomes a horizon, abruptly cutting him into two. I try to unify his two halves with a sweep of yellow chalk, the light now peeking through the covered up windows of his room where he lived, worked, and reported to have taken in stray dogs, while keeping most humans out. His head now resembles that of a shadow of a cat. Bowler hat takes position onto his head and his fingers dangle above the keys of a piano.
The line that initiates each drawing for Sports & Divertissements carries a weight and flow that is guided by the pieces. As I work into the drawings with a variety of mark making tools, I pick out cues from Satie’s accompanying narratives, asides that bring about a fantastical, imaginative world where animals, fashion models, and pedestrians take in sports and leisurely activities throughout a cityscape undergoing social and physical transformations and revisions. The roles of women from Satie’s time increasingly move from the domestic sphere into public life and I am conscious of the shifting representations of women as these illustrations carefully consider images of women in art history, literature, and advertising leading up to this period.
I reference pin up photos and art that appears on posters, in magazines, and ads from this period and onward throughout the 20th Century while working on the figures. These women become a sort of tour guide, resurfacing throughout each image and adapting into new forms according to their setting. Anthropomorphic characters emerge in flattened out, ambiguous landscapes and architecture, mingling with the leisure class. His narratives infuse animals and objects with human traits that light up the narrative as a sort of fairy tale filled non-sense, inviting a playful and free approach to recreating the illustrations. I use patterning and collage as devises to push and pull between abstractions and descriptive detail, leaving an open playing field for viewers and performers alike to navigate through each scene, layering in their own imagery and stories as they take in the music.