The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation has announced the three artists shortlisted for the Daiwa Foundation Art Prize 2018: Kate Groobey, Keith Milow and Mark Neville. The prestigious accolade is a unique exhibition and creative development opportunity, which offers a British artist their first solo show at a gallery in Tokyo, Japan. Groobey discusses her practice as well as the works that have been selected.
A: How would you describe your practice?
KG: I make paintings which portray my relationships with people. They are triggered by a moment we’ve shared or something they’ve said or done. Whilst on the one hand they are very personal, the portraits also become stereotypes, conveying emotions or states that everyone can relate to, like the state of pure pleasure. I also perform as the characters in my paintings, bringing them to life with a series of improvised vignettes (for which I make the costumes, backdrops and the music).
A: How will the work you’re creating differ / compare to your previous pieces?
KG: As an experiment, I sublet my apartment two years ago and, with my partner, left to live and work on the road. As we travel, the work I make is inspired by the places we go. My Pure Pleasure series was made in LA. It’s a series of nudes and portraits of my partner. The title, was something flippant she said, “I am pure pleasure,” but that phrase seemed to me to sum up my feelings about the landscape, about paint, about her and about the time of year: it was the start of summer.
These paintings are my first ever watercolour on canvas works. Compelled by the light of the French Luberon, Californian deserts and Nordic light of Stockholm, I came back to my studio wanting to convey that luminosity in my paintings and oil paint seemed too thick and heavy and toxic for the task.
The series is from the south of France, in the autumn. It’s about hard work. It was harvest-time, we went there to pick olives. In contrast to the L.A works (which play out under palm trees, on beaches, relaxing, reclining, chilled watermelon to hand) these are scenes of back-breaking hard-work. The characters look a bit like I do when I paint.
A: Where will you get your inspiration for the work?
KG: At LACMA, I stood looking at a Picasso painting called Man and Woman where the male figure is pointing a knife at the woman’s vagina, when a male security guard (laughing) said, “Picasso was a pig!” That encounter stuck with me and as I started to make my Pure Pleasure paintings I turned my attention to an unexplored perspective in the history of painting, that of a woman painting her female lover, woman on woman, with a desiring female gaze. I realised that when we see a female figure in a painting we are only used to seeing the desiring male gaze or self portraits.
A: What does it mean to you to be shortlisted for this award?
KG: I’ve always dreamt of visiting Japan. Japanese art was so important in the development of early western modernist painting and the traditions of figurative painting that my work engages. Also in my 20s I practised Ju Jitsu, which means “soft art”, a Japanese martial art designed to yield to your opponent’s force, using it against them, rather than using force against force.
A: How do you think it will widen your practice / exposure to exhibit in Japan?
KG: Living and working on the road allows me to get new insights with each new place I go. I want to go to Japan to make a series of work based around my trip. Also, I recently started painting on Japanese paper with Japanese brushes (I love those brushes) so it would also be a chance to fill my suitcase with brushes and paper and bring Japan back to Europe.
A: What other exhibitions / awards have you been included in recently, and what are your plans for 2018?
KG: I’ve exhibited a lot in America in the past few years, with solo shows at Redling Fine Art, LA in 2016; and in 2017 at Ever Gold Projects, San Francisco & Horton Gallery, NYC. This March I have my first solo show in Berlin, at GNYP, with my Pure Pleasure works. And I plan to develop my performance work with French curator Florence Parot during a two-month residency in Amsterdam this year.
For more information about the artist, click here.
The exhibition runs 8 June – 15 July. For more information about DAIWA Art Prize, click here.
1. Olive Pickers, 2018. Courtesy of Kate Groobey.