Happy Couple was produced for Georgina Gratrix’s solo exhibition, My Show in 2012. Writing in the accompanying catalogue text for Puppy Love, Gratrix’ survey exhibition in 2016, Emily Friedman observes that “In our 21st century rabbit hole, Gratrix has been carefully cultivating a system of painterly hieroglyphics that incorporates the uncanny, grotesque humour and blithe tropical aesthetics”, adding that “her portraits are the perfect embodiment of the illogical, as grotesque couples pose against palm tree patterned wallpaper, gently forcing pop-culture reflexively on the viewer.”1
Explaining the process that results in her sculpturally distorted impasto portraits, Gratrix says: “I often start with these very cute images”, which are frequently pulled from pulp fiction magazines and stock image databases, “but they become grotesque because the subject matter has to become darker to make the image more interesting”.2
“Gratrix questions how far the body can be pushed while maintaining a recognisable ‘human’ figure. [...] To assume that it is merely satire eliminates the potential for light humor and comedy from its wheelhouse. For amidst the variety of eccentric portraits built with a strong vocabulary of kitsch and cute, she is representing serious, if not sombre, themes. Ranging from neglected lovers to disillusioned loneliness – a relevant anxiety of our modern age – the comedic grotesque acknowledges our strengths and weaknesses, our preoccupations, our ethos, and our collective mood.”3
1. Emily Friedman (2016) Clowning Wisely: The Portrait Paintings of Georgina Gratrix, in Marelize van Zyl (ed.) (2016) Georgina Gratrix, Stellenbosch: SMAC Art Publishing. Page 19.
3. Emily Friedman (2016) Clowning Wisely: The Portrait Paintings of Georgina Gratrix, in Marelize van Zyl (ed.) (2016) Georgina Gratrix, Stellenbosch: SMAC Art Publishing. Page 22.
SMAC Gallery, Stellenbosch, Georgina Gratrix; My Show, 29 March to 24 May 2012.
Marelize van Zyl (ed) (2016) Georgina Gratrix, Stellenbosch: SMAC Art Publishing. Illustrated in colour on page 173.