Davidson Gallery presents What Goes on Behind a Windowpane, an exhibition of new work by Nathan Ng Catlin. The work in the exhibition includes painting, ceramic, stained glass, and found objects, each indicative of Catlin’s signature clear line style and his ability to work in virtually any medium. The title of the exhibition and many of the works in it are taken from the Charles Baudelaire poem “Windows” but references the artist’s – and every person’s – experience over the past two years. Windows appear in nearly every work, creating physical and visual thresholds through which people see and are seen, creating a voyeuristic effect as the subjects do not know they are being watched. Like many artists, Catlin spent the majority of the pandemic working in his studio or sitting at home, looking out the window at a world that seemed to stand still, even as the inexorable march of time and nature continued to run their course. The stained glass is most obviously associated with church windows, which Catlin subverts to make profane the normally sacred narrative that they impart, while also sanctifying the interiority that we were all forced to experience.
While uncertainty reigned so too did civil and social unrest, creating a metaphysical window through which we viewed the world, and saw ourselves as though in partial reflection. Catlin’s work always maintains a certain degree of allegorical mystery. Each image is a frozen snapshot that exists in a moment just before or after a significant event, following a narrative known in full only to the artist, but understandable to all as part of the human condition. The sense of being watched by unseen eyes, the inherent eeriness of being alone in the woods, or even the way we distract ourselves from the real-world events going on just outside. As Beaudelaire wrote in “Windows”, “What we can see in daylight is always less interesting than what happens behind a windowpane,” Catlin captures this emotion as he deftly transitions between different mediums and scale to achieve a singular new series.
Nathan Ng Catlin is a multi-disciplinary artist who lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. As a mixed-race first-generation Asian American from southern California, Catlin is interested in the complex narratives that arise from distinctions (culture, views on morality, etc.) that bring people together and separate them. His work is representational and figurative, featuring human interactions that draw inspiration from classical paintings, comic books, and tattoos. Catlin received his BFA in printmaking from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2007 and his MFA from Columbia University in 2012. He works in multiple mediums including printmaking, painting, ceramics, stained glass, and mosaic. This is his second solo exhibition with Davidson Gallery.