Catherine Bell’s practice centers on autobiographical experience and how ones own story is seen to contain elements from the stories of others common to humanity. This particular theme is explored in Rain Cheque, where the personal narrative endeavours to communicate a collective and universal history. Currently Bell is undertaking a PHD at Monash University, Caulfield. Her research explores the ways in which experience, subjectivity, reflexivity, liminality, performance process and artistic product coincide. In this series, Bell has set in Letraset sayings from moments of familial unhappiness. These are set against the backdrop of colourful quasi-pictorial cheque forms, (aptly named the panorama series) which banks in the U.S provided customers with in the seventies. On these American Security cheques Bell has inscribed phrases such as ‘You can’t be trusted to do anything’ and ‘A lot of good your friends do you.’
The cheque forms are personalised – as is the American customer – with the names of Bell’s Father and Mother. The work itself dates to her father’s period as a Military Attaché at the Australian Embassy, in Washington D.C. American Security – the Bank’s name, was not in the seventies the oxymoron that it is now. Its catch phrase of ‘security and trust’ is as precarious today as the vows made by newly weds and the marital institution. These little pieces of paper record family machinations, guilt laying, bitter taunts and neurotic accusations. The private insecurities become public clues to a dysfunctional family unit that is often veiled by a facade of glamour and prestige.
The cheques are mounted one above the other in threes on black album sheets. The array is housed in perspex display cases and rest on acrylic inserts. The pieces of paper look like quaint watercolours but their sweet aesthetic is bedded down in a sour tone of middle class frustration, discontent and resentment. The typography on the cheque is elegant and the caustic remarks short. According to Patrick Hutchings, “the ritual ‘Pay to the order of…’ which precedes each sharp inscription suggests currents, currencies of unhappiness, emotional ‘investment’, ‘withdrawal’ and ‘payback’: cheques crossed (though none are) with crossness”. i
i Patrick Hutchings. Australian Art Collector. Issue 32, April – June 2005Artist’s profile