After graduating in Fine Art from Oxford Brookes University and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Kate Milsom worked in art restoration for many years, where she developed a reverence for authentic materials and an appreciation of the richness and depth of pure pigment.
Kate’s work is rooted in the past, not simply because it features historical imagery, but also because she uses the same techniques and chemical processes. She began developing her now distinctive style of “antique surrealism” while on a long stay in Venice in 2006, making use of city-floor ephemera such as museum leaflets. From Kate’s mixture of painted and collaged elements evolve what she calls “intricate scenes of social malfunction”, in which symbolic references abound.
Kate is fascinated with how and why society functions, what ‘rules’ we accept to live by, where they are subverted and who among us is brave enough to pay them no heed. Working in series, her paintings often investigate socio-political themes, using historical comparisons to highlight contemporary issues. Using the form of narrative portraiture the images are intended to ask of the viewer “Where do I fit in?” and subsequently “Where do you?” and ultimately “Are we all sitting comfortably?”.
Kate’s 2022/23 triptych, ‘Valour, Vision and Veracity’ (the three panels of which can be seen on this page), are the first pieces by the artist to be revealed from a new series called ‘City of Women’, which addresses the misrepresentation of women in history through the medium of traditional portraiture. While men are predominantly painted in reference to their position or occupation, pre-20th-century representations of women generally focus on stereotypical interpretations of feminine beauty. As such, a widely diverse and fascinating history of the contribution of women in society and the workforce has been largely obscured and dismissed. This forthcoming series takes us on a global journey spanning eight centuries of feminine endeavour in the arts, sciences, medicine and politics and follows on from the artist’s earlier series ‘No Man’s Land, in which Kate celebrated remarkable, unsung figures in history (principally women) who challenged gender stereotyping in order to live lives of adventure and professional discovery.
The triptych was selected for the Platform 2023: Reframing the Muse exhibition within London Art Fair in January 2023. The exhibition reframed the muse as an empowered and active agent in the story of art, inviting viewers to consider the instrumental role played by diverse, real-life individuals, past and present, beyond the frame in which they are immortalised.
Kate exhibits widely, including at the Royal West of England Academy Open Exhibition, Bristol (most recently in 2022), the Society of Women Artists annual exhibition (2021 and 2020, when she won two SWA awards) and in vis-à-vis at the University of South Wales (2018), in which a selection of 20 images of women from its own Museum Collection were paired with 20 images of women by contemporary artists from Wales. Kate had her first major solo show with Martin Tinney Gallery in 2018, following a group show there in 2017. She has also had work included in selected exhibitions in London, at The Menier Gallery, The Gallery Cork Street, and The Chelsea Arts Club. Kate has an increasing following of private European collectors from Southern France to Croatia.