Catherine McWilliams has won the Sculpture Prize, sponsored by Hamilton Architects, at this year’s RUA Exhibition at the Ulster Museum in Belfast.
A landscape and figurative artist, Catherine hails from Belfast and has exhibited as an artist since the 1960s, with her work being held in a wide range of national and international collections.
“Catherine is a highly respected local artist with a track record of producing imaginative, interesting and provocative work,” said Paul Millar, Partner at Hamilton Architects. “We are delighted that her sculpture has been recognised by the RUA.”
One of the most eagerly anticipated exhibitions in the Northern Ireland cultural calendar, the RUA Exhibition runs until 3rd January 2021 with pre-booked tours available via the NMNI website.
On display are 250 examples of painting, drawing, sculpture, photography and video from an original entry of almost 1,300 artistic works. Some of the works reflect the times we are living in and allude to isolation, social distancing and surviving the COVID pandemic, while others share messages of hope, humour, and passion.
Catherine’s prizewinning sculpture of the mythological ‘Goddess Danu’ is a striking wood and papier mache sculpture standing 6ft tall. She explained: “Danu was the mother of the mythical Tuatha de Danaan. She is a bit of a mystery as there’s little mention of her in Irish lore except as the mother of the Irish gods.
“Celtic tribes believed that Danu was connected to the Danube River and some believe in an Indian-Irish connection with a Hindu river goddess of the same name. She is also seen as the central and most important member of the triple Morrigan. I see her connected to Gaia, the mother of Earth – ‘Gaia Burning’ was my response to the raging fires in the Amazon in 2019.
“Danu, as mother of the Tuatha de Danaan, is also a strong protective sculptural figure; the woman is part of the tree. It’s this interdependence, this interlinking and us all being part of nature, that I wanted to show.”
Catherine built up the framework on a simple square piece of wood and used varying lengths of wood, overlaid with cardboard and papier mache to flesh out the body. She then developed the upper body, the arms/branches, before using acrylic paint as underpainting and finally finishing with oils.
Thanking Hamilton Architects for their support, President of the RUA Betty Brown said: “The RUA have faced a grim challenge in the form of the Coronavirus pandemic and there were moments when it seemed like the exhibition might be cancelled – but resilience and determination won.”
Anyone who cannot attend the exhibition in person can take a virtual tour and buy works at https://www.artshow.at/royalulsteracademy/