Teaching and creative practice is a “magic” combination

“If I can give my students the ability to truly see, then I’ve done my job,” says Ms Cat Poljski, Senior School Teacher of Creative Arts. “Often we look at the world around us without actually seeing it.”

And Cat applied the same principle to her work she developed for her latest exhibition, Sub-divide, held at Collingwood’s Tacit Art gallery.

After her plans for an overseas residency in 2020 were interrupted, Cat responded to Melbourne’s COVID-19 restrictions, which limited travel to within 5km of your home, by creating a new body of work with a decidedly local focus.

“COVID forced me to look closely at what existed near my home,” Cat explains. “I would set myself missions to find a set of map coordinates, sketch or photograph the buildings in the area, then come home and draw straight onto copper to create etchings. I never really know what’s going to happen when my etchings become prints, and that’s part of the excitement.”

“I used the buildings as a metaphor for human interaction and behaviour,” Cat adds. “Each image in the series can be moved and connected to any of the others, which reflects my relationships with family, friends and strangers, and the ways in which we fit into each other’s worlds.”

Having exhibited in Australia and overseas for more than 30 years, Cat’s work as a practicing artist is a vital part of her life. At the same time, teaching provides a valuable counterbalance to the demands of her creative work.

“Teaching is where I breathe,” Cat says. “While I’d love to be a practicing artist full time, it consumes you so much—I don’t think I’d sleep.”

“Teaching is my sanity,” Cat adds. “It’s just as important as my artistic practice, and the two together is magic.”

While Cat’s work as a Creative Arts teacher does involve introducing students to new materials and artistic practices, training them to diagnose and solve problems using their own initiative is equally important.

“I often pull students away from their work and we sit and look at it together,” she explains. “Then they’re the ones who will see what’s missing and jump up to fix it.”

“These young people help me as much as I help them,” Cat adds. “Students and former students came to the opening of ‘Sub-divide’ and that made my heart sing. I feel so lucky that I’ve got teaching in my life.”