Recently returned from her residency in India, Liza Grobler is hard at work on two exhibits for the Cape Town Art Fair – one as part of her involvement with the Everard Read/Circa booth, and the other to be showcased as part of this year’s Unframed exhibition. The latter will involve a giant interactive installation which visitors to the fair can walk through and experience. We visited her at her studio in Woodstock to find out more.
You’ve recently returned from a residency in India, where you showed your collection of embroidered panels. Tell us more about the process involved in creating these panels and the inspiration behind them
I was selected by the Africa Centre for a residency at Khoj International Artists’ Association in New Delhi, India and spent six weeks living and working there in August and September of 2016. Usually when I arrive in a new space, I spend the first few days making small ink and watercolour drawings: this is my personal visual shorthand that I sometimes revisit later and adapt for larger projects. Soon after my arrival, I met Shibi Shabuddin, one of two brothers who run the local embroidery shop across the road from Khoj. I bought silk for the backgrounds and gave them some drawings to interpret. In spite of the language barrier, we achieved beautiful results through the collaboration, and I returned last month to produce another series of works.
Two of the embroideries are currently on show at the Iziko South African National Gallery as part of the Women’s Work exhibition, and a few more from the series will be on show at the Everard Read/Circa booth at the Cape Town Art Fair. The second series will be showcased as part of my solo exhibition at Circa Cape Town in March 2017.
Many of your works feature glass seed beads and you’ve previously collaborated with the Qubeka Bead Studio. Tell us more
My collaboration with Qubeka is ongoing. We completed our first piece in 2004, and have produced around 70 pieces over the past thirteen years. I enjoy the tangible qualities and luminosity of the glass seed beads. Our more recent pieces specifically strive to translate a hand-drawn aesthetic into seed beads. I love how we can imitate watercolour washes, pencil lines, tapestry fabric and even photographic elements in these works.
What part of being an artist do you find the most rewarding?
I really enjoy making things. I work constantly and although it is often stressful with deadlines and technical challenges, it is also enormously rewarding when you manage to overcome these things and solve the riddles. I love ‘going to work’, but even when I am at home, I scheme about my next project. On the other hand, rejection and failure is a very real component of being an artist, but if you can learn from your mistakes, it makes the successful projects that much better.
For this year’s Cape Town Art Fair you’ll be showcasing one of your interactive installations as part of Everard Read/Circa’s Unframed exhibit. In what way does having an interactive installation allow viewers to experience your work?
The work is really made for the viewer, and you can view it from a distance or quite literally climb into it. It is an immersive space and allows for playful interaction rather than an intellectual analyses – simply step into the experience and trust your gut feel.
What can visitors to this year’s Cape Town Art Fair look forward to from you?
I am excited about the work that I am making for the Unframed section, which is titled ‘Barbed wire Paradise is exactly where you are’. The outer skin is made from 2kms of crocheted rope and 40 000 pipe cleaners that are tied into three-dimensional forms. It is an interactive object that blurs the lines between drawing (it consists mainly of three-dimensional lines), sculpture (viewed from a distance it is a contained form) and interactive process (the appearance of the work will be altered by every person that steps inside).