At Catz, art forms an integral part of students’ interests and general outlook on student life at Oxford. Thanks to its more artistic, modern vibe, we continue to attract the kind of students who want to think differently, question, and most importantly, create! There is no medium of art that hasn’t been produced or performed here in college.
During term time, Life Drawing and Paint Soc meet every week where students of any ability can experiment with materials, composition, and line work, but most importantly take a well-earned break from their busy schedule to listen to some music and draw. The Catz Music Society runs regular music events from open mics (showcasing the best of Catz-own talent) to gigs all over college. Lastly – and most excitingly! – we organise an annual Arts Week in Trinity Term, full of really fun activities for you all to enjoy! These have included an outdoor cinema screening, salsa dancing, an art-themed hall and so much more. It always marks a really nice end to the year so it’s definitely something to look forward to!
ART IN COLLEGE
Arne Jacobsen is the Danish architect and designer responsible for our beautiful concrete haven that is St Catz. He designed the buildings and meticulously planned out every interior detail too, from the furniture and cutlery, to the blinds which you will notice are embedded within the window and the plug sockets which are part of the skirting board. Not to mention our looming brutalist bell tower and Grade I listed circular bike shed. Jacobsen designs for both aesthetics and function so though Catz doesn’t look like your ‘typical’ Oxford college, it’s truly like living in every architect’s dreams.
On the lawn beside the moat, you will notice Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture, “Achaean”, with its organic curves very much contrasting the straight edges of the buildings. This was designed by Yorkshire sculptor, Barbara Hepworth, one of the most important artists of the 20th century, who carved her way through the male dominated field of modernism and sculpture, creating art inspired by both landscape and the human figure and their connectivity.
Next to the Porter’s lodge, lies Ju Ming’s “Unbroken Taichi Flow 1”, the work of a renowned Taiwanese sculptor. He represents the human form in sculpture in a blocky, geometric style. His Taichi series shows figures in various Taichi poses, a practise which allows you to develop physical and mental discipline.
Hanging from the great walls of our Hall are six tapestries, designed by Tom Phillips, an artist from London who also attended St Catz in 1958-60. Two of these tapestries are inspired by the legend of St Catherine and the wheel, which failed to kill her because it spontaneously shattered (according to legend), leading her to escape. This is where the term ‘Catherine Wheel’ comes from, as well as the name and logo of our college. The other four tapestries are based on the college motto, “Nova et vetera”, the new and the old.
Stephen Hodder, an English architect, designed the 2005 addition to St Catz, consisting of the new Porter’s Lodge and New Quad. Its design is a continuation of Jacobsen’s original building, connecting the old and the new.
As you walk to the Bernard Sunley building, amongst the neatly trimmed hedges, you may lock eyes with some mysterious faces. There are nine portrait heads, made by Silke Rehberg, a German artist, who visited Catz in 2014. It was during her stay where she decided to make the group ‘portrait’ of the college and the heads represent Catz’ own fellows, alumni and tutors, including: Roger Ainsworth, Fram Dinshaw, John Ockenden, Barrie Juniper, Tim Kelsey, Genevieve Helleringer, Gito Lal and Isobel Renton. These faces may surprise viewers, and as they face inwards, you may feel as if you have just walked into a conversation.
TARA BENJAMIN-MORGAN & ARTHUR LAIDLAW
In 2014, the JCR unanimously passed a motion commissioning a number of portraits for the College Library, recognising and celebrating women in college. As one of the first Oxford colleges to accept women, it was important to recognise that history and to represent the continuation of that legacy in the current Catz community. Two Catz alumni were chosen as the artists, Tara Benjamin-Morgan (Fine art, 2013-16) and Arthur Laidlaw (History of art (2013-16) and the six portraits now hang on the ground floor bookcases of the library.
The individuals represented in the portraits are Lizzie Andrews, Efi Barda, Naomi Freud, Cressida Chappell, Gilliane Sills and Louise Fawcett.