Liza Grobler’s April show at Everard Read in Cape Town, entitled Maybe Time can Fold was ‘a tangible, textured, multi-coloured montage of time, place and space by the artist, to be explored at the audience’s leisure’. Art lecturer and historian, Lloyd Pollak, reviews the exhibition.
Liza Grobler is a dazzler who always looks like a film star emerging from her stretch limo on her return from some ritzy Hollywood do at 4:00 A.M, for the artist is all mascara, razzamatazz and flashy fashion sense. She has fun dressing and she has fun with her art. An infectious sense of enjoyment is manifest in her every endeavour, and at her recent show Maybe Time can Fold at Everard Read’s Cape Town gallery, these are manifold, embracing silk embroidery, knitting and all the traditional housewifely needlework skills which she subverts. Grobler eliminates any element of utility, in her sculptural works like Untitled which she transforms into a monumental epic creation that asserts a masculine audacity. This installation of tall columns rising from floor to ceiling – fashioned from, of all things, pipe cleaners, clearly demonstrates that her every piece resonates that uniquely Grobleresque quality of looking like nothing else that you have ever seen in your life. One is left so gob-smacked, all you can do is hurl adjectives at them. Her oeuvre is utterly unpredictable – fantastic, phantasmagorical, chimerical, amazing and off-the-wall – and always fireworks for the retina and the mind.
An emphasis on tactility, her materials and their kaleidoscopic textures and colours are the quintessence of her art, especially her two most resplendent creations. Crysalis – a weird, rounded, teardrop shape, about four feet high and three in diameter – is improvised in a basketry technique employing industrial polyester, mohair, hula hoops and dangling plaits of hair. Surprise is a constant, and here it stems from both the odd materials and organic sculptural form and, even more from the two projecting feet and legs that suggest a human presence within this hairy carnivorous confabulation which verges on the surreal.
Crows in Satpula Park, an abstraction that nevertheless evokes perspective, landscape and avian presences, is yet another nonpareil. Executed in black velvet, silk, a variety of different fabrics, patterned and plain – all set off by Swarovski crystals that glitter and sparkle with brilliantly tinctured reflected light – its unbridled exoticism may reflect India, where it was conceived and executed.
So, what on earth is Maybe Time can Fold actually about? Grobler claims that the goal of her art ‘is to confound all expectations, make dreams tangible, take a step beyond reality and usher the viewer into a parallel universe. Hopefully this will shift the way the audience perceive and experience reality and make them more reliant on feeling and intuition, rather than reason.’ The artist proclaims, ‘ours is a colourful and amazing world where universes explode, space collapses into bottomless holes, time sags and slows near a planet, and the unbounded extensions of interstellar space ripple and sway like the surface of the sea…’ Her creations mirror the unpredictability of the universe and the aberrant behaviour of time, place and space as described by the Relativity, Quantum and Big Bang theories. She speaks of making the viewer ‘become a granule in the process, a moment in the life of the universe as it extends in space and unrolls in time…’
In other words, her pieces aim to transform our consciousness. However, the intellectual content – the four dimensions, space, time circularity, the Nietzschean idea of history as eternal recurrence – is always presented with an unfailing inventiveness and playful wit. The 49 abstract ink and pigment drawings address these concerns far more overtly, and consist of undulant parallel brushstrokes applied to both dark and smouldering and light, bright and airy grounds. All attest to a strong sense of pattern and rhythm, a flair for colour and, finally, a firm sense of order and discipline underneath the appearance of an imagination running riot. Grobler’s instinct for interval and the play of solids and voids is also impeccable and achieves an almost musical quality. But there is also a darker side to the artist that comes to the fore in What Remains, a suite of 49 works that look decidedly sinister, like hoary antlers, and evoke something primal and predatory, like fangs, claws and snakes, which immediately prompts shuddering recoil in the viewer.
‘There is a strong sense of assertion. Every work boldly cries out, “this is me”. At last Grobler’s work has achieved a new coherence and vigour. Finally, the artist has come into her glorious own,’ commented the gallery director, Charles Shields, and I can only concur that this devastatingly original artist surpasses most of her rivals working far-out on the cutting-edge.