Mikey Cuddihy is a writer and artist, lecturing within fine art at the University of Brighton as well as publishing and exhibiting to widespread acclaim.
She attended the Summerhill School in Suffolk, reflections on which form the basis of her memoir A Conversation About Happiness: The Story of a Lost Childhood (2014). She later studied at Edinburgh College of Art, the Central School of Art and Chelsea School of Art. For many years her art work has come from small doodles, notes, or 'aides memoires', transformed to large-scale paintings and installations, and her writing reflects again her interest in personal observation and the methods of fictive autobiography.
Artist and writer Mikey Cuddihy uses autobiographical references in a struggle for harmony between the romantic vision of the artist and the reality of the individual. She often scales up intimate notes and sketches. Major exhibitions have shown her biro drawing, collage and paper cut-out work.
Mikey Cuddihy came to this country from the USA at the age of 10, and was educated at Summerhill School in Suffolk, and studied afterwards at Edinburgh College of Art; the Central School of Art, where she received BA in Fine Art, Painting (1st class hons), and Chelsea School of Art, where she received a MA in Painting.
For 20 years, the source for Mikey Cuddihy's art work has come from small doodles, notes, or 'aides memoires', transformed, in earlier works to large-scale installations, such as '4 Chairs for Francois', at Unit 7 Gallery in South London (and later that year at 'Plan K Gallery', Brussels), where intimate notes and drawings were scaled up to giganitic proportions, covering the walls of a converted luggage factory, to large-format abstract paintings, such as Iron Gates of Life, (her first one-woman show at Flowers East in 1991). Her paintings and drawings are included in The Arts Council Collection, Contemporary Arts Society, and Deutsche Bank, among others, and she has received consistent critical acclaim for her work.
In 1997, she received a major award from The Pollock-Krasner Foundation in New York, which resulted in a new series of paintings, using collage and paper cut-out to create highly decorative coloured canvases. These were shown at Beaconsfield Gallery in London (New Paintings by Mikey Cuddihy), and later in 'Girl', and were reviewed in Make Magazine, Frieze, The Guardian, and Art Monthly. In her catalogue essay for the Beaconsfield show, Heidi Reitmaier says: 'These paintings are sites in which the complexities of the domestic and the troubling, alluring state of the painterly signs of modernism converge to make new and unique narratives.'
She followed this with one-woman exhibitions in 2003 at Peer Gallery, Hoxton - James in Limbo, and the following year, Spirit Drawings at Hackney Forge, and Painted Fiction in 2007 at Seven Seven Contemporary Art, London.
Another strand to her work have been an on-gong series of biro drawings, on lined A4 sheets of paper (the same medium as the doodles), of underwear - bras and knickers, which were selected by Mary Kelly for East International 2001. Another group of 12 biro drawings were selected for The Jerwood Drawing Prize that year.
In 'Spirit Drawings', which she showed at Hackney Forge in 2004, and in ‘Fraternize’.in 2011, Cuddihy moved away from the complex layering to a simpler more pared down approach. Again based on notes and doodles, a small, intense area was selected and transcribed through simple enlargement onto large sheets of semi transparent paper, almost like skin. Using spirit-based inks, a deep red or tattoo blue which enters the surface of the paper, large biomorphic forms commemorate friends, now absent from the narrative. Fragments of text (handwriting) is sometimes visible as a key to what might have been said.
Mikey Cuddihy's paintings and drawings inhabit both public and private domains. In her exhibition at Peer Gallery, James in Limbo, telephone jottings - snippets of messages and conversations scribbled down or arrangements made with friends and family were photocopied and pasted onto the canvas. Over this coloured cutout shapes derived from the doodles became leitmotifs for the work, hovering among painted calligraphic marks in a field of decorative activity.
Alongside these works, there has always been her writing - short, autobiographical narratives which have accompanied her installations and paintings. This has has lead to fictional works in their own right, and 3 stories were included in an anthology of artist's fiction, The Alpine Fantasy of Victor B, published by Serpent's Tail, and funded by ACE and The Elephant Trust.
Reviewing the Anthology in January 2007, Adrian Searle says: "Mikey Cuddihy's stories have the same uncomfortable atmosphere as her paintings... she is a natural and inventive writer."
Mikey Cuddihy has always written, and in the past has published short narrative texts to appear in catalogues or artist's books alongside her paintings and installation. In December 2006, three of her short stories were included in an anthology of fiction by artists, The Alpine Fantasy of Victor B & Other Stories. In 2007, she produced a series of small figurative oil paintings, a re-working of drawings she made in the past – of groups of teenagers and friends, called ‘History Paintings’, which were shown with Peer at Zoo Art Fair.
A Conversation About Happiness - The story of a Lost Childbood-published by Atlantic Books
The Observer Magazine: 'Once Upon A Life', by Mikey Cuddihy
'Lost in Leytonstone', short story commission for Paula Kane Studio Wall, published by ICFAR (University of the Arts, London), & RGAP.
The Alpine Fantasy of Victor B & Other Stories, editors Eileen Daly & Jeremy Akerman, Serpent's Tail, Anthology of Artists' fiction.
Garageland, issue 7, New Fiction, 'Carla Says', by Mikey Cuddihy. Untiltled Books, Nov. 08. New Fiction, 'Bourgeois', by Mikey Cuddihy
A Conversation About Happiness 2014
"Cuddihy's craft is to elicit our sympathy in non-combative style. Often unhappy, in pain or confused, she is never explicitly bitter....Childhood is a topsy-turvy world here, and Cuddihy's triumph is to remain balanced throughout, leaving us to feel the spills."
"Written with a cool-eyed compassion, this is a fascinating examination of the bittersweet experiments of sixties child rearing, of which Cuddihy was both a victim and a beneficiary. I found it deeply moving."Esther Freud (Author Of 'Hideous Kinky')