Caterina Leone is a Melbourne-based artist revitalising the historic drawing technique of silverpoint to create intimate self-portraits that question societal notions of gender. She inserts herself into the religious, mythological and art historical iconographies that have fascinated her since childhood, and which, due to her biological sex, hold conflicting connotations of exclusion and reverence. By recreating this imagery in her own image, in disregard of sex and the gender binary, she removes the barriers to her inclusion. In doing so, the artist can explore her identity and how it has been shaped by patriarchal, societal ideas of femininity. Her combination of silverpoint -a largely forgotten, pre-graphite way of drawing with precious metals such as silver - with contemporary mediums like spray paint, is a means of exploring this inner conflict in her choice of materials as well as subject matter.
Born in Sydney, she studied at the National Art School and worked in arts administration, writing and curating before moving to Melbourne in 2017 to pursue her own art practice. Caterina’s interest in art began in childhood, inspired by her artist and designer grandfather, whose artistic ability helped him survive POW camps in Germany during WWII and who studied under Communist rule in Ukraine. Consequently, her conception of art is defined by a belief that it must attempt to transform, redeem and challenge the self and society.
Her work has been featured in online and print publications and Caterina has been included in numerous group exhibitions and juried art shows in NSW, the ACT and Victoria. Collected internationally, her most recent solo exhibition was held at Tinning Street Presents in May 2021 and in 2022 she was a finalist in the prestigious M16 Drawing Award.
My art practice is centred around self-portraits, through which I explore the impact of patriarchy and heteronormativity on my self-conception. Religious, mythological and art historical imagery have fascinated me since childhood, but were cis-male-dominated in both leading characters and authors. Roles for women were limited and of those, I related to none. By recreating this imagery in my own image I remove the barriers to my inclusion so that I might explore how my identity has been shaped by societal ideas and values around femininity.
Drawing is at the centre of my practice, not only my medium but fundamental to the meaning of my work. Because drawing is seen as the first draft, as an act of exploration and creation, it reflects my search to understand the complex issues that preoccupy me. In ‘Self/Take, this is my body’, the hand gesture recalls historic religious portraits but I offer up the now-iconic Instagram ‘like’. My aim is for this to be somewhat ambiguous: am I posing there, naked and vulnerable, asking you to like my body so that I might try to like it? Or am I offering up my own self-love – and possibly making the viewer uncomfortable thanks to internalised misogyny and feminine sexual agency?
The revival of silverpoint, which is a largely forgotten, pre-graphite way of drawing with precious metals such as silver and gold, combined with contemporary mediums like acrylic markers, depicts my struggle to reconcile my reverence for tradition with the necessity of its revolution. I was drawn to silverpoint because of my fascination with alchemy and symbolism, and much of my work draws on this fascination, with hybrid human-plant lifeforms that convey my Spinozist spirituality.