Accompanied by a SMAC Certificate of Authenticity.
Georgina Gratrix is best known for her kitschy still lifes and sardonic portraits painted in an exaggerated, cartoonish style using lurid colours. Her subjects are often modelled with thick impasto paint, which the artist additionally gouges, scrapes and smears. Once dry, this encrustation forms the skin of her gaudy blooms, weeping belles and preening society figures. An encounter with Gratrix’s delicious brand of tropical grotesque is meant to tickle. Delight, though, does not fully account for her motivations as an artist. This lot portraying a cheerful Caucasian woman with signifying gold jewellery and bulging left eye is exemplary. It recalls Pablo Picasso’s countless figural distortions, of women with mismatching eyes and noses askew. Gratrix’s casual notation also invokes Willem de Kooning, who used large, fluid strokes to describe his compositions Woman, Sag Harbor (1964) and Woman (1965). Two examples from art history suffice. Gratrix has said that the canon of painting is filled with “so many stodgy, stoic canvases by so many important men,” and, further, that working in this revisionist moment she is able to “dig and have fun with historical representations”.1 Notwithstanding her tendency to use a reference image to start, be it a tabloid photo or historical painting, her portraits are never straightforward likenesses. “I am never just painting one person. It is actually a jumble of references, motifs of a type of woman I paint. For instance, there is the garish, too-many teethed woman. She reappears in a lot of works – some of friends, others of cover girls.” The outcome is always portrait that hovers between specificity and type, a compelling likeness and unreliable fiction.
SMAC, Cape Town, 2013.
SMAC, Cape Town, PAINT I: Contemporary South African Painting 2002 – 2012, 27 November 2012 to 26 January 2013.