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Liza Grobler "White Termite"

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Liza Grobler revamps the gallery space of Brundyn + Gonsalves with her ninth solo exhibition. The white cube of the downstairs exhibition space has been transformed into the brilliant blue of a "Greek Island," as deemed by the Plascon colour swatch. If there is any dispute the colour swatch code, b6 - a1- 1, appears on the wall (just behind where the wine is generously handed out on opening nights) in silver, gleaming vinyl.


Liza Grobler revamps the gallery space of Brundyn + Gonsalves with her ninth solo exhibition. The white cube of the downstairs exhibition space has been transformed into the brilliant blue of a "Greek Island," as deemed by the Plascon colour swatch. If there is any dispute the colour swatch code, b6 - a1- 1, appears on the wall (just behind where the wine is generously handed out on opening nights) in silver, gleaming vinyl. The artist has constructed a new landscape to match her backdrop.A garish "barbed wire" -style fence built of metallic, blue pipe cleaners divides the floor, between two pillars. The floor is further disrupted by five inflated porta-pools adorned with crocheted, tea-cosy skirts that spread across the floor like circular doilies. The frills extend into unraveled (or rather not yet ravelled) ribbons made from bra straps. On the opening night guests tentatively tip-toed around the threads while three young men wearing white overalls and royal blue ear-phones were immersed in the process of crocheting the webs.Grobler's work often incorporates the active occupation of space. In 2009, the artist essentially moved into Irma Stern's house for the duration of October. The body of work titled, "Visitor" involved throwing a birthday celebration for Stern, inviting artists to participate in a life-drawing class and offering daily residencies, among other things. It feels a bit like Grobler has moved into Brundyn + Gonsalves, drastically redecorated and scattered her furniture about oddly in order to steer her guest's movements through the space.The exhibition, titled "White Termite", makes performers of the viewers. A woman tosses a coin into one of the pools to join the small change already oxidizing wondrously on the plastic well bottom. Another greets one of the performers enthusiastically while the white overalled man attempts to diffuse the interaction. A viewer wearing the customized earphones belonging to the mixed media video sculpture "Crochet, Gym and Tonic," with eyes fixed on the flickering screen, effectively mimics one of the ear-obstructed single focused performers.The punned title of the video piece demonstrates the playful thread that weaves its way through the body of work. The video shows two women, one crocheting and the other on a vibrating exercise machine following the dance routine directions of an eighties synth beat. Metallic sheens, glittery junctures and crystal bejeweled objects accentuate the exhibition's light-heartedness. The work "Fabrication of Memories" consists of a collection of artist Lien Botha's late mother's tablecloths and tea towels. Here the literal/figurative linguistic playfulness becomes nostalgic. The resonance of the linen as sentimental objects supplants the quirky play on the specimens being at once fabric and fabricated. The porta-pools themselves lend a suburban, childhood wistfulness. They provide a low-budget solution to the desire for a back-garden splash.The exhibition is purportedly loosely based on the text The Soul of the White Ant by Eugene Marais. The text was the first to closely examine the behavior of a colony of white termites. The thrust of the text is that the nest operates like a single organism. Marais then likens the colony operations to the functions of the human body. Certain of Grobler's titles hint toward termite themes. "Queen" is a 24 carat gold plated copper crown with a crystal crest and a long crocheted yarn, wind sock shaped cylinder that extends from the crown resting on a cushion to the ceiling of the gallery. The title can be linked to the head of the termite nest. "Termite Eye View #1" and "Termite Eye View #2" are two large adjacent oil paintings on board (whether these are views from a termite's eye or views of a termite's eye remains a riddle). "White Termite" is an intricate glass bead painting, glued together to look strung together. Finally, "Nesting 1-8" consists of eight copper wire sculptures finished with a blue patina and punctuated with Swarovski crystals. These are organic shapes and are shelved irregularly.Besides from the subtle linguistic allusions to termite themes in certain titles, the exhibition mimetically encompasses Marais' findings. The word "synergy" in the title of the installation "Sonorous synergies: a tall tale," suggests that the work relies on the compound effect of all its elements. The piece consists of the five porta-pools, three performers, water, coins and crocheted bra straps together. As Marais likens the termite colony operations to the individual functions of the human body, Grobler likens the colony operations to the function of individual artworks in composing an exhibition.Admittedly, this is not an exhibition I would volunteer to take my grandmother to. Not because of nudity or cuss words, but because my grandmother is a water-colourist painter of the Simonstown Society of artists. She asks too many questions and coming up with tall tales is hard. Jessa Mockridge is an intern at Art South Africa, and will begin a Masters in Art Writing at Goldsmiths University in London in September this year.
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