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Georgina Gratrix

By Linda Stupart
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon

Georgina Gratrix
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 2008. oil on canvas 130 x 190cm.

Georgina Gratrix is a painter. She also works in print, collage, pencil crayon and, on one memorable occasion, brightly-coloured pipe cleaners. Multi-media aside, however, Gratrix’s ‘painter-ness’ defines her working method, which challenges the history, materiality and contemporary positioning of this deadly serious medium.


Gratrix’s work straddles a number of media – working primarily in oil paint, the artist has also produced a number of watercolours, monotypes, drawings and pop collages featuring art-historical reproductions torn from heavy educational tomes, neon stickers and glowing frames. Her subjects seem equally varied; ranging from Paris Hilton to Picasso, Cy Twombly to Chanel Bags, boys’ chests, girls’ eyes, and rainbows. Though it may seem hard to relate each (often fleeting) interest, these subjects reflect not only the chaos of Gratrix’s internal dialogues and internet tendencies, but also the democracy of information that defines modern life in the digital era.

What holds Gratrix’s diverse oeuvre together is her unrelenting investigation into the limits of representation, with literal, historical and technical deconstructions of the frame. In the Women Wallpaper series, Gratrix flattens three ‘seminal’ Modernist paintings of women (Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, de Kooning’s Woman V and Manet’s Olympia) into a Biggie Best banality – where the works retain the originals’ size and colour, but are leeched of their subjects (none of whom were really allowed subjectivity) in a violent fracturing of the representational painting tradition, and the succession of male genii at its helm.

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 Gratrix also embraces figuration, though in a manner that too destroys the canvas’s edge, working often on circular surfaces, or outside of the frame altogether. In Show Me Your Feelings and Show Me Your Dancing, two towering composites (one male and female), stretch out from rectangular torso-canvases, onto the wall they stand on. Gratrix’s new work in progress sees the artist destroying her paintings, which become strips of painted canvas from which she weaves, sculpt and builds a new materiality. Even the artist’s palette becomes assimilated into the work, as Gratrix not only makes murky the gap between art (made by the artist) and object (touched by the artist’s hand), but also reasserts the artist’s own frenetic presence in her production.

As well as posing challenges to the limits of painterly representation, Gratrix’s work also always makes visible her own position, as painter, woman, woman painter and corporeal body. Gratrix’s critique of the phallogocentric art historical canon is clear in ‘Master Copy’, her first major solo show held at Whatiftheworld/Gallery in Cape Town. Her new mode of production expresses these positions through manifestations of her ever-passionate relationship with both her subjects and paint itself. Her (notably female) subjectivity is expressed through not only representations of her desire, but also the desiring mark itself - the squelching, dripping, messiness of thick oil paint pumping from expensively-marked tubes, where each work becomes a one night stand – a magical, real, orgiastic (and orgasmic) and, often, tragic engagement with a difficult medium.


“I am interested in puppies, parrots, beauty queens, Bacon, Dumas, Degas, Amor Vittone, Chanel handbags, Robert Pattinson, Justin Bieber, Muafangejo and palm trees. I paint from doodles, magazine clippings and internet cullings. The paintings never look anything like the source material. All these pretty things become a little uglier. They become paintings.”


“Like a dancer on a hot, dark and sweaty nightclub floor she has woven her way around a seemingly formidable and impenetrable mass of artistic bodies and developed a new set of steps… all of her own”  - Andrew Lamprecht. 2009. Dance Dance Revolution, ‘Master Copy’ catalogue essay, Whatiftheworld/Gallery, Cape Town

“Though one can scarcely flick a palette without hitting five art 'tricksters' at the moment, it's great to see one whose mastery of her medium is as effortless as it is convincing. Even Gratrix's smallest daubs on paper make Avant Car Guard's monumental piss-take paintings at the same gallery seem overwrought and awkwardly unfunny.” – Michael Smith, ‘Best of the Joburg Art Fair’. ArtThrob. Issue 139. April 2009.  


Georgina is working towards a solo show at SMAC in December. Focussing on the materiality and corporeality of oil paint, Gratrix is also shifting to new modes of sculptural production, building her surfaces into the arena of three-dimensionality and creating objects out of the painted surface. At the same time Gratrix has just completed a screen printing workshop at Warren Editions, where she has been drawing a lot of flowers.


Georgina Gratrix’s first solo show, Master Copy, at Whatiftheworld/Gallery in 2008, focussed on the relationship between painting’s history, originality, the representation of women within the art historical canon and the medium’s relationship to contemporary popular culture.  As is Georgina’s wont, the show managed to be both very funny and formally competent.  Read Katharine Jacob’s review here.



2002-2005    Bachelor of Fine Art, Michaelis School of Fine Art, Cape Town


2009    3 month Residency, TAKT program in Berlin, Germany


The National Gallery of South Africa
The University of Cape Town
The Ellerman Art Collection

Solo Shows

2010    Everything Ecstatic, Ten Haaf Projects, Amsterdam, Holland
2008    Master Copy, Whatiftheworld Gallery, Cape Town

Group Exhibitions

2011    ‘Collection 13’, Stellenbosch Modern And Contemporary Art Gallery (SMAC), Cape Town
‘¡ALPTRAUM!’, traveling Group Show, Washington D.C. London, Berlin, Los Angeles, Cape Town.
‘Collection 14’, Stellenbosch Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery (SMAC), Cape Town

2010 ‘From Pierneef to Gugulective’, South African National Gallery, Cape Town

2009    ‘Big Wednesday’, Whatiftheworld Gallery, Cape
Johannesburg Art Fair
‘Registration’, Warren Editions and Joao Ferreira Gallery, Cape Town
‘Manifesto’, CO-OP, Johannesburg
‘Conversations’, The Association of Visual Arts (AVA), Cape Town
Volta. Basel Art Fair, Switzerland
‘Printing Money’, The South African Print Gallery, Cape Town
‘Fresh Fruits’, Ten Haaf Projects, Amsterdam, Holland
‘Holiday’, Whatiftheworld Gallery, Cape Town

2008    ‘Fresh Meat’, Whatiftheworld Gallery, Cape Town
Johannesburg Art Fair

2007    ‘Finding UCT: Narratives new and old in the UCT Permanent Collection’, The Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town, Cape Town.

2006     ‘Not yet Famous: Nobody Likes Nothing’, Whatiftheworld Gallery, Cape Town
‘All Creatures Great and Small’, Whatiftheworld Gallery, Cape Town