About the Artist:
Born 1982 in South Africa
Lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa
Specialising in sculptural installation, painting, drawing and printmaking, Isabelle Grobler’s work explores notions of hierarchies and power relations in a world fractured by economic and socio-political paradoxes. While her sculpture utilises a variety of discarded and obsolete objects as a starting point, she creates surreal environments populated by hybrid machine-organisms constructed from urban debris. In her painting she looks to ‘found concepts and ideas’ rather than found objects and draws on the history of art as a starting point for her work.
The spaces she constructs in both her installations and paintings are dreamlike and alien: based on reality, but reconfigured by the unconscious, where recognisable things and ideas have been shuffled and reinterpreted to produce a Kafkaesque ambiguity. The characters vacillate, like Frankenstein’s monster, between the threatening and the pathetic, representing a transformation of dead things into unclassifiable beings.
Isabelle used a residency in Jaffa, Israel as a starting point to develop a body of work called ‘the cannibals’ congress’. This forms part of her ongoing project ‘the cannibals' banquet’ where she explores the politics of consumption as a psychological and social human function.
Isabelle Grobler was born is Pretoria and grew up in Bloemfontein, South Africa. She spent her childhood years between the family farm and town. She completed her BA degree in Fine Art at the University of the Free State in 2009 and her Master of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town in 2012 (cum laude). She was the overall winner of the African Continental juried Lovell Art Competition in 2014. She has exhibited in South Africa, the UK and Israel, in galleries and art fairs including a highly reviewed solo booth at Art15 London. She completed a 6-week residency with the Tiroche De Leon Collection and START in Jaffa, Israel, and has had two solo exhibitions at Sulger-Buel Lovell in London.
About the Exhibition:
The Grind of Suburbia
In The Meatgrinder Madrigal, Isabelle Grobler spins a dense and complex web of narrative, allusion and dark humour to create a new mythos, making classical works from art history serve as her ‘found objects’, just as she has utilised industrial detritus and antiquated domestic machinery in her well-known sculptural installations prior to this exhibition. However, here paintings, drawings and prints operate in a space that uniquely reflects her sheer enthusiasm for and excitement in making, using her inimitable imaginative skills and her quirky take on ‘the life we live now’ to convey a magnificent and meandering creation epic.
The latest exhibition by young South African artist Isabelle Grobler is likely to provoke, intrigue, shock and delight, in equal measure. Reflecting and critiquing the banalities, complexities and eccentricities of suburbia, Grobler creates a larger-than-life tableau of creation, self-discovery and inevitable fall. Typical of her work, dark humour suffuses these works, jockeying with a real sense of revulsion for the trappings of contemporary consumerist society and the compromises required to appear as ‘normal’ in the modern world.
The exhibition stands as a painterly sculptural installation: a story conveyed on canvas. In its defying of the strictures of its two-dimensional bounds, it is an exercise in organic growth (perhaps gone wild). The Meatgrinder Madrigal promises to give a heady insight into the way that contemporary painting is able to defy language and to present commentary without recourse to words.
However there is a narrative embedded in this body of work and it goes something like this, as the artist herself describes it:
Part One: The Creation
In the beginning, there wasn't much in terms of image and ideas.
But god (represented by the blue meatgrinder/sausage machine) is all alone in his red room. So he looks out of his window onto the chaos and spits out a word and creates a companion his Jack Russell, Loki.
The creator god/demiurge realises his ability and clings to his worktable and in his red room while his Jack Russell Loki sleeps, and start to create from nothing. He keeps going but is not satisfied with anything he produces, so he creates and creates until he finally spits out Venessa/Venus (with yellow-blonde hair). The god loves her, but Venessa/Venus is bored, so the god creates companions for her: lapdogs.
Part Two: The Abduction
Venessa is still unsatisfied and turns on the creator. The battle leads to the creation of a serpent and a small garden. The serpent abducts Vanessa and carries her into the garden where she discovers swinging. The swinging fills her with an intense dissatisfaction.
Part Three: The Fall
Vanessa abandons the garden and serpent and discovers the shopping mall. Shopping fills her with new zest and she starts to dance. Exhausted from her exertions in the mall she collapses to wait for a new day.
This narrative is a darkly humorous take on the banalities experienced by many a suburban housewife. Shortly before embarking on this body of work Isabelle Grobler moved to a thoroughly suburban area in the Northern Suburbs of Cape Town, South Africa. Soon she was invited to ‘tea parties’ and encouraged to join WhatsApp groups where the main order of business was gossip, conspicuous consumption, drinking wine and fantasising about other women’s husbands. Grobler ran a mile but wove her experiences into The Meatgrinder Madrigal, which stands as a contemporary fable for our times.
Grobler herself notes in relation to her practice:
As an artist, I am interested in the mechanisms and dynamics of the process and the act of creating/making. Creating as a dynamic act of processing and thinking; to know something is such a fleeting thing as new thoughts are always already challenging the new insight.
So there is really only constant thinking and processing for me. Hence I love drawing and paper’s immediacy and directness. Something I find also in the medium of enamel paint. I have no patience when I need to make and dread losing an idea or insight. A creation stops as soon as it’s static, ideas die when they stand still.
Indeed dynamism and movement are key to the works in this exhibition and the sheer energy that seems to suffuse her works is staggering. Viewers to the exhibition are encouraged to overlay narratives of their own on the individual works and the body of paintings as a whole.
The exhibition will be activated by a performance by the artist on the opening night and which will leave integral traces throughout the gallery space for the duration of the show. The Meatgrinder Madrigal will leave much food for thought in the mind of the viewer, long after the exhibition has closed its run as the work itself is cyclical and speaks of an endless grind, experienced by many trapped in thickets of modern suburbia.
About the Curator:
Andrew Lamprecht is a senior lecturer at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town. Having curated over twenty exhibitions, he is known as a writer, art historian and theorist with a special interest in contemporary African art. He serves on numerous South African advisory and consultancy boards and committees, including being a member of the acquisitions committee for the Iziko South African National Gallery, an expert advisor to the South African Heritage Resources Agency and is a long-standing member of and former office bearer for the International Association of Art Critics (AICA).