SMAC GALLERY (STELLENBOSCH), STELLENBOSCH, 29 MARCH – 24 MAY 2012
Indexed between track #11 (“Love You all the Time”) and track #13 (“Jesus”) on Georgina Gratrix’s oil Playlist (2011), Versailles synth-rock band Phoenix’s song is an apt source for her My Show. The more than fifty paintings exhibited converge as a resurrected Myspace account where sardonic soppiness meets melancholic buffoonery in a travesty of self-interest(s).
Most of the works are caricatures in the Latin sense of carricare (“to load”) – charged, comic likenesses – functioning as exaggerations, as in BFF (2012), a colossal portrait of Gratrix’s childhood best friend. The bff’s outsized head has iris-only eyes and an ingot-shaped snout for a nose, becoming a de-heroised monument to friendship. Yet Gratrix is not essentialising her subject: assembled from Facebook-culling, her portrait is an archaeology of a complex, personal relationship. In this regard, she also, almost childishly, lays claim to the portrait by inserting a caricature of herself into the bff’s forehead as The Mexican (2010), or Inner Brat (2012) – two self-portraits elsewhere in the show. This is a leitmotif: portraits of others, as if possessed, turn into self-portraits.
Man’s best friend is the subject of It’s OK (2012), a painting of a pooch from a puppy calendar accompanied by the text of the title. Looking forlorn in blue hues, the mongrel cries out that it is not ok, becoming a receptacle of breakup woes and calling to mind expressions such as “throw someone to the dogs”, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, “dog eat dog”, “as sick as a dog” and “every dog has its day” (this just isn’t it). Gratrix engages here with cute as a sublimation of violence, a self-protective fantasy extended to the sentimentality of Seven Rainbows (2010). Stretched over six canvases, these rainbows are made by Gratrix cleaning her palette knife, a playful act capturing, the utopia of painting itself. Messy, monochromatic and acidic, they are more akin to the bathos of Cezary Bodzianowski’s Rainbow (1995), than Caspar David Friedrich’s Landscape With a Rainbow (1810). At the end of the rainbow is disillusionment, as Gratrix reveals in Come on Over Baby (2011), a rainbow without the cold half of the colour spectrum. Painted over the text of the title, the canvas now only reads “COME ON”, in a gesture of deadpan romanticism.
Incredulity of another kind transpires in three flower paintings, a maligned genre that Gratrix tackles tongue-in-cheek in a narrative of love lost. In I Love You all the Time (2011), a zany bouquet euphorically towers out of its shallow vase, the carnality of the paint resplendent.
Read more in the current issue of Art South Africa magazine (10.4), in stores now.
Abri de Swardt
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN ART SOUTH AFRICA V10.4