Kathe Bibi Ostermark

Fitzroy Library Exhibition Space, 128 Moor Street, Fitzroy

Totally Unframed

Inspiration and ideas from everyday life.

2 November - 30 December 2012

I have known Kathe’s work since 1994 when I joined CAS and it has always delighted me. Kathe has this innate ability to evoke an emotional response in the viewer, whether it is one of joy or sadness. When writing about an artist’s work I always write down my own thoughts before reading the artist’s statement.

I was happy to find that my reactions to Kathe’s work are exactly what she is aiming at. That is, she seeks communication with the viewer, and for me she succeeds.

In Kathe’s figurative work her personas convey emotion solely through body language, where there is no need for facial expression. These images are full of life, the titles are full of humour and spot on, and we can imagine how these people are feeling in that moment of time.

The three canvas works placed in the main part of the library added vivacity and colour to the room, they virtually light it up. The works are executed in acrylic and they are all in the same colour scheme of green, yellow, white and red.

 The Waiting Game: a dejected faceless woman is waiting for the clock to strike 12. She wants to say “I’ve had it”. The feeling here is one of being tired, tired of waiting, a feeling of despondency. But also there is an air of anticipation here which made me think, ‘I wonder who or what she is waiting for, is it worth it, is she disappointed, will it eventually happen.’

Beside Myself: I had to smile, only Kathe can come up with such a play on words. She has two identical figures, one being ‘the self’ and the other an identical copy of ‘self’.

There is a feeling of frustration, and a questioning of what am I to do, how did things go wrong. You certainly don’t need faces, these figures sitting next to each other on a bench, their heads down and cradled in their arms, certainly tell the viewer how they feel. The only lively things here are their red pony tails swinging defiantly in the air.


 Taxi: city in the background, the young woman flies in pursuit of that elusive taxi. Her red hair swinging, high heels dangerously lifting her off the ground and her black handbag swishing in the air, who has not been in such a situation? Once again you do not need a face to tell you how frustrated she feels. Hurrying as she does she is oblivious of any danger of falling or loosing her skirt which is precariously poised on her hips, slipping down exposing her belly button. Her main aim is to GET THAT TAXI.

In the library corridor there are works on paper, where Kathe uses strong shapes and intense colours to express emotion and communicate it to the viewer.

Stranded: a sad figure, a dejected man, alone on what seems like an island, sits and contemplates what he could do, how could he get home safely. His blue-green boat is anchored in the sea. One wonders what is wrong, has he lost his way, there are no oars or sails on the boat, so is it usable. The feeling of isolation is very strong and evokes emotions of pity and anxiety. His head bent down he is trying to work out what to do, his body is getting sunburnt and there is no respite, no tree or shade in sight.

Thumbelina: a beautiful blonde mermaid is floating on a bed of seaweed, her little toes playfully peeping out of her fishnet stockinged legs. There is a sensation of enjoyment and playfulness here. She seems carefree, her lovely blonde hair trailing in the wind. Kathe’s round red pulsating sun in the heavens adds to the obviously happy and enjoyable image.


 The Woman who lived in her Family Tree. This is hilarious and echoes our universal fascination with our heritage. Here she is studying her lineage in a dugout hut in the tree, oblivious to all around her, the heavy book is not a problem. A myriad of stars and a white round moon give her light. But beware! There is a poisonous toadstool for a stand on which a wobbly cup of tea is resting. Has she found someone unwanted in her lineage, disturbing the sweetness she imagines in the ‘cuppa’ and in her ancestors.

Nine Lives: this is a print of nine live cats huddled in a group, perhaps discussing a hunting foray. One cat has it’s back to the viewer, he is the boss, and the others seem to be listening to him. The colour scheme here is in blues with one lavender and one white. Fantastic play on words here Kathe.

Picnic on a Hanging Rug. Well, it immediately made me think of that wonderful film “Picnic at Hanging Rock”, thus evoking a sense of danger. Although the two girls sharing champers and fruit delights seem to be having fun, I wonder how they are going to get out of that place. Certainly the two dark rocky outcrops from which their rug is hanging convey something brooding and forbidding. The red round sun is sinking into the sea heralding the end of the day, maybe sending a message that it’s time to go home.

Bookworm with Attitude. Here is an open book and the worm very sure of himself, arms akimbo, reading glasses on his head, jumping with glee, and in control of the fluttering pages. There is a smirky, cheeky look on his face, maybe he knows how much damage he can do to that lovely book, if he decides to.


The next suite of abstract works in acrylic on paper have been done shortly after Kathe’s recent visit to Tazzie.

The Market: This picture reminds me of our Richmond Saturday street market. It has rows and rows of stalls filled with goodies. There are trees bordering the market.

This work is done in many shades of red, in places broken up with white. Black outlines depict the rows of stalls, separating them. This is a very lively image and a hive of activity.

Little Monsters: here multi coloured monsters, outlined in black ,are crowding themselves into a mound, one on top of the other. Little monsters seem selfish and not caring if they squash each other, or else they may huddle for warmth and companionship. Either way, they convey ‘strength in numbers’.

Air Photo: this is executed in dark colours, most unusual for Kathe. Maybe flying over Tasmania in the dark, the snapshot has rocks and trees and streams. White zig zaggy lines could be old tracks criss crossing the whole area. Some trees are delicately done, where you can see leaves with lace-like veins, against solid dark grey rocky outcrops. This is a very dramatic image.

In contrast, Rainforest is green and lush and fresh. Abundant trees seem to be looking at their reflections in pools of water. Definitely the country is green and wet and alive. Once again vegetation is done delicately, some old, some new and springing to life. You can almost smell the lovely fragrance.


 Titanic - drama here! Lovely colours, muted red and burnt orange, fill shapes that could represent the disintegrating Titanic, surrounded by sea and floating cool blocks of ice. Some jagged frantic action depicted in the corners, may represent the few life boats and people crowding into them. Yet Titanic could represent danger itself, not the actual Titanic catastrophe. As I contemplated the picture, I was thinking of all the recent natural disasters, of tsunamis and earthquakes, and Hurricane Sandy.

I for one respond to Kathe’s work in the full gamut of emotions. They evoke joy, amusement, happiness, fright and anxiety. I congratulate Kathe at her ability to engage the viewer - not just a passing glance but a study and contemplation. I encourage CAS members to see this wonderful exhibition.

Report by Sophie Skarbek


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