Solo Exhibition: Isabelle Grobler
‘The Meatgrinder Madrigal’
Curated by Andrew Lamprecht
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
Venessa 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.
Image credit: Isabelle Grobler The Swing (Detail of Diptych) 2018 Enamel paint on canvas 61x132cm
To view or download the catalogue please click download PDF below