When book illustrator Piet Grobler was planning his next exhibition, the issues dominating his head space turned into the title of the show, White lies and inconvenient truths. DIANE DE BEER takes a closer look:
First Piet Grobler invited two fellow artists, Marinda du Toit and Corné Joubert, with similar storytelling abilities, to join him at the Tina Skukan Gallery from Sunday November 17 at 11.30am until December 14.
“In times of immediate mass communication, the collective tools of white lies and unspeakable truths seem to protect existing establishments, ridiculous assumptions and ideas and positions of power,” he writes in the invitation to the exhibition, which consists of Joubert’s ceramic objects, Du Toit’s sculptured characters and his own two-dimensional illustrations, all with a playful yet ironic view on this inconvenient truth.
“An interest in language and text, a preference for spontaneous drawing, seemingly nonsensical marks, discarded found objects, chance and happy accidents become the shared characteristic of this collection of visual narratives,” he notes. All of the work is held together by humour even when the messages have serious impact.
He derives his inspiration from from folk art, humour, travel, nature, human nature and stories of all kinds. “I have tried, in honour of the truths and the untruths, to simply play when I made my illustrations for this exhibition.”
Talking about his processes, drawings and paintings were done without excessive planning, thought or contemplation and the leftovers and snippets from other more calculated projects supplied him with the materials to make his unique worlds and tell his stories.
“Chance and happy accidents were used and then, I have to confess, fine-tuned and manipulated in order to tell stories that I hope will be funny or moving or interesting takes on truths.”
“I have always loved using idioms and metaphors in my titles for my characters,” says Du Toit, emphasizing in the process a layered meaning in the material, posture and title thereof. “The concept is timeless, lies and truths have been (unfortunately) forever part of breathing and being, since religion, politics, people grouping, intolerance within every individual , etc. I just went ahead and made them,” says the artist completely in sync with the concept.
She enjoys being pushed out of her comfort zone, which can happen with the suggestions of others. “It can make you explore things that are not necessarily or naturally part of your reference.
“My work is mostly intuitive. Once I have established the concept, lived with it in my mind for a while and did some research if needed, I start looking at objects connected to the idea and it flows from there,” she further explains.
“I like to comment on issues, and current issues, whether subtly, with humour or directly. I want the viewer to ask questions, shy away, be embarrassed, explore further interpretation.”
She agrees with Grobler that we need to laugh at ourselves. “What always amazes me, is when a joke is derived from a tragic or shocking incident, how we find healing in the macabre by joking about it. I do clowning where the innocence (uninformed/childlike behaviour) of the clown is also a wonderful tool to address and comment on sensitive issues and taboo topics.”
She works with found objects, discarded, or items that are not useful in their primary function any longer. “My characters comment on any pressing issue, or any (assumed) mundane issue, being part of our daily lives as human,” falling neatly into the title of the exhibition.
Joubert, who worked for this one mainly in ceramics, found the theoretical disparity in the title pushed her to explore ideas on the lies we tell and on how lies and truth in general impact her life, environment and relationships. Who decides what is true and fair and how many people must agree on something to make it true?, she asks.
“By looking at history, we know millions of people can be wrong. Inconvenient truths are often tempered by white lies and so the boundaries between truth and lies dissolve, sometimes due to good intentions.”
She work in multiple media. “Images, characters, groups and surface treatments in my work all refer to reactions to my larger world of relationships, occurrences, stories and observations. There is usually a satirical suggestion to my responses. I am a writer and subsequently narrative, text and symbols form a part of my visual language.”
It makes sense to group these three artists together even if they work in different media and different genres. Their visual language is a collective one with a playful yet sharply satirical edge that might appear quite harmless, sometimes even childlike.
Their work elicits a wry smile and while it appears not to take life too seriously, what they’re saying with their work, dispels that myth.
With this specific title, the subversive nature of their art is allowed to flourish in a very specific way. This is a world turned upside down both climatically and in the way some people have chosen to inhabit their space in a particular time of madness and mayhem.
This trio have found a gentler yet no less effective way of making their point in almost sly fashion.
Send in the clowns. It’s time to laugh.
The exhibition will be opened by Johan Myburg, poet and art critic, on Sunday at 11.30 am. There will be a preview of the exhibition on Saturday from 9.30 am to 4 pm and a WALKABOUT presented by Piet Grobler on Saturday November 23 at 10.30 am. The exhibition closes on December 14.