Cato: Seen!

7 - 28 March 2024

7 - 28 March 2024

PV: 6 March 6.30 - 8.30pm


Cooke Latham Gallery is pleased to present the debut UK solo exhibition of South London-based artist and musician Cato.


For Cato the process of making music is synonymous with the act of painting. One of his musical hero’s is Madlib the American DJ, music producer, multi-instrumentalist and rapper. The freedom of this musical maverick in merging and mixing jazz and blues classics is akin to the aesthetic energy in Cato’s studio, in which he processes numerous and varied art historic influences to create radically new figurative works that speak to identity and black culture.


The exhibition is comprised of a series of larger-than-life portraits, ambitious canvases in which Cato combines collage, acrylics and airbrush. His figures are inspired by found images and photographs of local characters near his studio in Peckham.  Interested in the self-conscious act of ‘sitting’ Cato playfully interrogates the formulas of traditional portraiture.


'Seen', the title of the exhibition, is a Jamaican saying that references not only the act of seeing but also means 'to be understood'. It hints to a camaraderie between the artist and the sitter, an attempted understanding of their sense of identity and circumstances. A nod to the famous studio portraits of Malick Sidibé, who Cato reveres, the subjects of his paintings are actively conscious of being viewed and of viewing each other. Some depict characters engrossed in mutual observation, while others feature individuals casting self-conscious glances beyond the frame at the artist or viewer.


Cato often works on numerous canvases simultaneously and his studio walls are peppered with pinned portrait parts which, like paper dolls, await animation upon the canvas. The delight Cato takes in creating this illusion of animation is reflected in his short films, in which realism and proportion are gleefully sacrificed for dynamism and a surrealist sense of play. While taking inspiration from luminaries like Kerry James Marshall, Romare Bearden, and Basquiat, Cato also references filmmakers such as Lotte Reiniger and Ralph Bakishi. His paintings are alive with implied movement, and in many ways have the fierce energy of animation stills.