Cathie Bleck

Permeate from Avance Series
Kaolin clay handmade pigments, inks with lacquer on panel
36 x 5 in. | $1,750

I have been exploring the kaolin clay medium for over 30 years. For the past ten years, I have been making my own pigments with a liquid form of the clay from a proprietary source. Each color interacts uniquely with the kaolin. For instance, when liquid kaolin is mixed with yellow pigment, it turns into a putty. When mixed with certain greens from Morocco, it crystallizes.

I begin my process with the white, silky clay by applying layers of the clay pigments on various surfaces, including wood panels, papyrus, and fine art papers. After the clay dries, I apply lacquered inks. I then carve the surface with flat razors, knives, sandpaper, or sponges, scraping away the dark-colored clay/paint/ink mixture to reveal the white of the kaolin beneath. While similar to sgraffito, my process differs in that I am literally peeling away darkness and layers of a dimensional surface in order to reveal the light at its core while adding allegorical and metaphorical relevance to the content of the work, further lending itself to the depth of the piece.

This natural kaolin clay is formed at the bottom ancient lakes or found in soils that have developed from the chemical weathering of rocks in hot, moist climates. I am fascinated that kaolin is used often for its healing properties. Bandages are coated with kaolin to aid the healing of wounds. It is used in products that detoxify the skin and also as an all-natural fruit-tree insecticide. Kaolin clay also enhances blood circulation to the skin and is used by patients undergoing radiation treatment to help protect their gastrointestinal tract from ulcers. There are even pregnant women who crave eating kaolin.

artist’s website

© Cathie Bleck