Cathy Tabbakh: "I fell in love with everything I saw and an obsession started to grow"

"Surrealism in my work started evolving naturally as it’s where I completely let myself go."

- Cathy Tabbakh

Deep blues, surreal interiors and everyday houseplants are trademark features in the work of Cathy Tabbakh, a London-based French painter. Since 2017 her pieces have been shown across the UK and France as her career has begun to build steam. We recently spoke to the upcoming artist about her work…

How did art come to you? And what was it about art that attracted you?

I’ve loved drawing, painting and making things with my hands ever since I can remember. And when I was 12, I started taking drawing and painting classes as an after-school hobby. Then one day for a classroom trip, we went to the Musée du Louvre and I fell in love with everything I saw and an obsession started to grow. I think it’s mostly the colours that attracted me as well as the peace and sense of freedom.

Do you have a routine creative process before painting? And if so, what is it?

I don’t really have a routine per se, but I have to start early in the morning otherwise I lose track. It’s hard to explain, but I guess it’s a discipline I follow and it relaxes me knowing that I have the whole day upon me. I don’t necessarily always make a sketch before I paint, I just start on a white paper or canvas and just hope for the best! I do experiment a lot though.

Before you put paint to canvas, do you already have a clear idea of the work you want to create?

Often yes, as I get inspired by pictures I’ve taken of still lives, holiday scenes or even bathrooms that I really liked. I also get inspired by pictures I find online or in books and magazines. Therefore, I usually have the basic structure of the artwork which comes from a picture and then it can change and evolve as I go. The ongoing process opens up new directions.

Many of your paintings incorporate home plants and vases. What drew you to making these centrepieces of your paintings?

Painting still lives blossomed during lockdown. I was already painting botanical scenes before, mainly as domestic scenes. But during lockdown, being unable to access my East London studio, I had to work with what I had at home. I do have a passion for interiors, architecture and design so it was “easy” to find inspiring objects. My work, however, used to be very 2D. Since lockdown I experimented a lot with shadows and the various lights and effects they create and loved it! It is now fully in my routine and style.

Your work utilises everyday home objects and environments yet places a surreal twist upon them. When did you start painting in this style and why?

Surrealism in my work started evolving naturally as it’s where I completely let myself go. That’s what I love the most about the painting process. Even though I have an idea of what I’m going to paint, I always end up being surprised because sometimes you don’t think when working and the result is often surrealist, even if it’s only in the composition or the proportion.

Your use of blue is striking throughout your work. What led to your widespread use of the colour?

I have always favoured blue. Even my childhood bedroom was totally blue. I find it to be the warmest colour and the one that moves me most. Maybe because it’s so natural and so unnatural at the same time. For example, if I choose to paint a blue plant, it’s going to look surreal straight away and that’s what I love about blue. It’s a very surprising colour, full of so many variants and I often contrast it with red, green and yellow.

How do you see your work developing and evolving in the future?

Working on some bigger scenes probably. I still very much enjoy painting still lives, bathroom and architectural scenes and including the female figure. I think I’ll work on wider compositions and I’ll continue portraying plants and everyday objects. I am also going to incorporate ceramics into my practice. This is something I am trying at the moment and I will see how it turns out.

And finally, any advice or words of wisdom for any young artists reading this?

Work, work and work! Be patient, love what you work on and most importantly, do not follow trends.

You can enjoy more of Cathy's work on her website here: