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Considering Georgina Gratix’s ‘90s Princess’

90’s Princess 2017


Georgina Gratrix - 90’s Princess, oil on canvas (2017)

The most boring thing in the world is people who take themselves too seriously. There is a whole art history of them, canonised in stodgy, stoic canvases painted by men in academies of taste. Enter Georgina Gratrix. Her self-depricating humour and intelligent wit puts play to this history in works of syrupy, sardonic inversions of what painting is.

Gratrix loves the fleshy, gunky, gooey qualities of paint. This, the mediums comical reality, is used to expose a too-much-ness in the world at large, a world of excess and kitsch and shallow sentimentality. Gratrix s painted surfaces consistently brings our attention back to the corporeal body of the paint itself, exposing the playful tension she has with the tradition of using paint to create seductive illusionistic surfaces.

She prefers working with the difficulty of familiar painting genres such as portraiture and still life in her brand of domestic satire and describes her earliest doodles as those based upon her mother‘ s flower arrangements.

‘Flowers for Frank who is on a Diet’ (2017), is one of many painted arrangements dedicated to friends over the years. Giving cut flowers as a gift is usually done to mark politeness around the death of a loved one, when recovering in hospital, at a birthday or as a thank you gesture. Frank’s flowers droop in their thickly painted depiction on canvas. Frank is on a diet, poor man. The painting begins to read as a symbol of quiet loneliness or loss exposing a shallow sincerity. It is in the uglier representation of conventionally pretty things that Gratrix foundations her painting. She describes her still lives as gushy pop songs. In them she melds the tumbler-aesthetic of the digital age with references to Modernist South African painters Maggie Laubscher and Irma Stern.

90s Princess comes from a body of darkly humorous portraits that through disfiguration and multiplicity, describe the line between absurdity and solemnity. Caught in an imaginary camera flash glare,

90s Princess could be any starlet grinning in the face of a fading career: as washed out as the watercolour bleeds of her form on the paper. The medium of the watercolour paint is  conflated with the subject such that the absurd is rendered poignantly vulnerable and grimly comical.

Gratrix is ruthless in her comedic assault, a venerable jester of the society of our times. As evidenced in her references that range bewilderingly from the high art to the popular and kitsch, Gratrix’s practice is a place of confronting the assumptions of painting and the subjects of our culture as deadly serious art.

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