Our Artist Spotlight series continues with Annie Cattrell, who is currently to be found exhibiting in the Saatchi Gallery's inspiring celebration of female sculpture: IF NOT NOW, WHEN?

Annie's practice is often informed by working with specialists in neuroscience, meteorology, engineering, psychiatry and the history of science. She is particularly interested in the parallels and connections in art, science and the poetic, and - as well as exhibiting her work around the world - is also Lead Artist for UCL’s new centre for the treatment of neuro-degenerative diseases in central London, and a tutor at the Royal College of Art since 2000.

Your work is being exhibited in Saatchi Gallery’s exhibition IF NOT NOW, WHEN? Can you tell us what to expect from your involvement?

‘ Capacity’ is a wall mounted sculpture and based on observations I made while looking at corrosion casts of human lungs. These specimens are in the collection of the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons of England. Capacity was partly shaped by blowing and breathing into molten glass to form the organ of air. Therefore, the method of sculptural making reinforces the permeability and symbiotic way in which our bodies and the environment we all live in co-exist.

What inspires you?

I have always been inspired by immersive experiences that cannot be ‘switched off’, which are in essence 360 degrees, such as climbing mountains or conversely watching brain surgery. It is the phenomenological observations I can make while in these intense situations of the place, spaces, sounds and context, which then amplifies my awareness and expands and distils the experience into ideas, thoughts and informs decision-making later in the studio.

For example, as part of the Sky Art Landmark series, I cast the rock topography at Siccar Point on the South East promontory coastline of the Scottish Borders. This geologically significant rock formation is the locus where James Hutton (the ‘father of modern geology’ and author of Theory of the Earth in 1788) observed that the world was, in fact, far older than was previously understood at that time, through the general belief in Creationism. He said: "that we find no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end." This quote seems to embody his understanding of deep time and time before human existence.

Additionally, while working as Lead Artist at UCL’s new centre for the treatment and research into neuro-degenerative diseases, I visited their brain bank in central London. It was extraordinary and profoundly moving to observe the highly skilled and systematic work that happens there in the quest to identify the causes of neurological illnesses.

It is this primary research and attention to listing and hearing, seeing and understanding that inspires me most.

Are there any other objects or artworks you’re particularly looking forward to seeing during the exhibition?

I was fortunate to see IF NOT NOW, WHEN? when it was first shown at the Hepworth Gallery earlier this year. So it is fascinating to see how this iteration of the exhibition looks and is curated in the splendid and very different Saatchi Gallery spaces.

What trends do you see emerging in the arts in 2024?

I notice current major exhibitions are reflecting upon many issues that were previously marginalised or overlooked. At ground level there appears to be a rethinking of materiality and making, perhaps in counterbalance to digital. Also, the sustainability of resources, which means that there is clear attention to being resourceful and inventive.

The complexity of the politics of now will undoubtedly inform what we all see expressed in 2024, whether as a direct reflection or potentially as the beginnings of hopefulness for what really matters.

If you weren't an artist, you'd be...

A medic.

Other than a phone and keys, what's the one item you always have on you?


How do you relax when you're not working?

Scouring charity shops and car boots.

What's your favourite-ever piece of art [either that you own or wished you owned]?

Richard Wilson’s ’20:50’ and/or ‘Turning the Place Over’.

How will you be celebrating Christmas this year?

I will hopefully be climbing a mountain and then swimming in the very cold sea. Depending on the weather, it might be the other way around!

And finally, what's your favourite festive tradition?

Enjoying the solstice and as Margaret Atwood writes:

“...This is the solstice, the still point
of the sun, its cusp and midnight,
the year’s threshold
and unlocking, where the past
lets go of and becomes the future;
the place of caught breath, the door
of a vanished house left ajar...”

Margaret Atwood,
Eating Fire : Selected Poetry, 1965-95

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