In response to COVID lockdowns in regional Victoria, Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery is proud to present the online presentation of The Artist and the Mermaid, a new artwork by Catherine Bell, presented as part of exhibition Video Now in partnership with NETS Victoria.

The Artist and The Mermaid (2020) is a silent film that documents the shared artist residency undertaken by “The Two Cathies” at Venus Bay 2020. Cathy Staughton and Catherine Bell are artist collaborators and have been each other’s muse since 2009 when they met at Arts

Project Australia. The silent film genre has been selected because for a brief time in history, it provided an inclusive experience for the hearing impaired who could fully participate in this popular cultural form as equal members of the audience. This silent film is both a documentary and performance artwork. It documents Cathy painting a series of nude portraits of Catherine Bell, while she performs the role of a mermaid that Cathy Staughton discovers on the beach.

Director of NETS Victoria, Claire Watson says: “NETS Victoria is excited to work with Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery to present Catherine Bell’s The Artist and the Mermaid online. Until audiences can once again visit the gallery in person, everyone with a screen and Wi-Fi can enjoy a part of the exhibition Video Now from home.” Catherine Bell says: “The film and portraits explore the ageing female body and bodily difference through this mythological character. The seaside is a site where negative body image is often experienced, so selecting the beach setting and mermaid guise aims to promote positive images of older women and dispel negative stereotypes of ageing. Mermaids are usually depicted as young women and their transition from sea to land involves surrendering their unique anatomy. Cathy’s acceptance of her mermaid friend’s bodily difference subverts this traditional narrative, and through their creative exchange, promotes body positivity, interdependence and empowerment.”