Born 1950 | Dover, England
Artist Katharine Ambrose was born of an English father and Swedish mother in Dover, England. However, Katharine Ambrose is firmly rooted in Africa - its civilisation, landscape and the attendant social commentary - like her township paintings. Labels never really apply completely but as an artist, 'The South African Lowry' is in some part true, in that her paintings have created a new awareness of the beauty in common day scenes.
The interest Katharine Ambrose found in South African art took a step forward when she and her late husband - an Anglican priest - settled near Rustenburg. On seeing some of Katharine's paintings, the famous watercolourist Bill McGill invited Katharine to join his art classes. She also took life-drawing lessons from Mike Oertel. Kathyarine's first solo art exhibition was held in Bloemfontein in 1983 at the invitation of the O.F.S. branch of the South African Association of Arts. Katharine has been a full-time South African artist since 1984.
Preferring to paint from live situations, Katharine Ambrose has been able to document many aspects of rural and township life in her township art. This South African artist’s depiction of groups of people going about their normal life correct in posture and attitude has earned her the 'Lowryesque' artist mantle. Her painting technique leads the eye to formulate the facial expressions, which are at best hinted at in her brush and palette knife technique.
Katharine has the ability to vary the scale of individual elements within the composition yet keep the overall image meaningful in the naive style. Look also for the interaction between her subjects - which almost encourages one to write down the conversations taking place in her South African art and paintings.
Katharine Ambrose travels widely to find her subject matter in rural and school settings always sketching rather than using the crutch of photography. Most of Katharine's artworks are oil paintings, acrylic paintings and mixed media paintings.
The following that artist Katharine Ambrose has extends worldwide and comprises visitors who feel they have bought the essence of South Africa at a domestic level. Though never sure where her South African artworks will eventually hang, Katharine is sure they are collected by "her sort of like-minded people".
Her beloved husband Giles passed away in 1999, leading Katherine to re-examined her lifestyle and imagery. She relocated to the Western Cape which gave her new impetus to capture the differences she noted from her native Pretoria.
Katharine Ambrose’s naïve and primitive style is unique amongst South African artists, emanating as it does from a very Eurocentric, albeit liberal, background. Her intent is to document, and in some cases chart and predict, the advancement of previously disadvantaged peoples in both rural and urban settings.
She is full of hope for the future and marvels at the ‘African-adaptation’ of ideas – the wheelbarrow tipped onto its handles makes an ideal ‘African Armchair’ and is often used by roadside woodcutters from which they can view their stock and relax in-between customers.
Katharine Ambrose’s artworks have been widely collected and within South Africa, most institutions have bought for their collection. One of the most notable persons to collect her works within South Africa is Cyril Ramaphosa – the mainstay of CODESSA talks which brought about the transformation and who now is currently the President of South Africa .
Katharine's main fear is to leave one of her many subjects with one or half a leg. Should you find this in your chosen artwork it is indeed a rarity and just an oversight.