Artist Liza Grobler dabbles in a diverse range of mediums, embracing bright colour and incorporating traditional craft techniques to create site-specific artworks. Her impressive portfolio includes everything from performance art, drawing and painting to crochet, beading and weaving. She’s done 11 solo exhibitions and her latest one titled Blindfolded Line, Dancing Through Time is currently showing at Johannesburg Art Gallery.
Liza also has a long-standing partnership with Nando’s, and over 85 of her pieces are exhibited in their restaurants and offices around the world. During the month of August one of Liza’s works will be turned into a massive ceramic mural by the Half Square team as part of the Nando’s Accidental Art project (#WDC522). This piece will consist of 6000 hand made ceramic half squares in over 100 colours in a 20 square meter panel outside Nando’s on Kloof Street in Cape Town. “The design echoes the silhouette of Signal Hill which is situated more or less behind the Nando’s building,” explains Liza.
We chat to Liza about her work, motivation and her relationship with Nando’s:
What is your background? When and why did you become interested in pursuing art as a career?
I studied art at the Visual Arts Department of Stellenbosch University and graduated with a MAFA degree in March 1999. From a very young age I loved drawing and making things. Let’s just say I was definitely not destined to be a sport star, so I opted for day dreaming and studying the world around me.
Describe your aesthetic and what influences it?
I am influenced by the people I know and the spaces I frequently visit. I love colour and creating unexpected experiences by combining seemingly unrelated things. My work celebrates the uncanny and functions in the space between fact and fiction. My one friend summed it up well when she stated that my work is like ‘a fete and sometimes the puke that comes with a fair’.
You have over 85 pieces in Nando’s restaurants and offices around the world, and you’ve held 11 solo exhibitions – which is a pretty impressive body of work. What inspires and motivates you to create new work?
Inspiration is secondary, it’s mostly a combination of perseverance and a compulsion to create. Making art is a way of life or perhaps it’s an addiction!
Your work stretches across various mediums, from crochet, beading and weaving to performance and drawings. What do you enjoy working with/on most?
The different components are in dialogue with each other. I do not prefer one to the other, I simply employ the medium that would be the most suitable for the project or idea I wish to explore.
How did your relationship with Nando’s come about and how has this partnership influenced your career path?
It started through my participation in the Creative Block. I think it was around 2004. The ongoing financial support through the various Nando’s art initiatives enabled me to continue making work as it provided an ongoing source of income whilst I could experiment and explore new ideas.
Tell us about the piece that will be translated onto a mural in Kloof Street as part of the Accidental Art project? What inspired it? What’s the story behind it? Why was this specific piece chosen for this locations?
The location, corner of Kloof and Park Street, is in the CBD and always bustling with activity, but set against the backdrop of Table Mountain, Lion’s Head and Signal Hill. I wanted to visually connect the urban to the natural environment and also create a visually vibrant artwork to which pedestrians and motorists can respond intuitively rather than intellectually.
For me, the connections between things are important: between urban and natural, private and public, artist and viewer. The design echoes the silhouette of Signal Hill, which is situated more or less behind the Nando’s building. It portrays a man walking through a fynbos landscape. We are also installing benches on the pavement where pedestrians can rest, and once seated, they become active components of the artwork.
How is this piece different from other public art you’ve done, and what did you enjoy most about working on this large Half Square mural?
It is large, it is prominent, it is permanent and I had the opportunity to work with a wonderful team of creatives from Yellowwoods Art. This allowed me to focus on the idea whilst they solved the logistical challenges. Karen Kotzé who heads up the ceramic studio is incredibly knowledgeable and well organised. We had a brilliant time discussing and adjusting the palette, finalising the colours of the tiles – which by the way are all handmade – and refining the design.
What are your thoughts on public art? How do you think it influences the people exposed to it and how do you hope to see your piece in Kloof Street affecting Capetonians?
Public art is firstly, PUBLIC. It is on view for anyone that wishes to SEE. It operates in a space where the public can utter their opinion and the usual artspeak is redundant. I find it very exciting. But since public spaces are there for everyone to use and enjoy, I reckon public art should present an idea without enforcing it on everyone else. I think it is important to consider the public, and present them with something that is both inviting and refreshing, something that would encourage interaction and stimulate dialogue. This is also why I enjoy the interactive component (the benches for pedestrians) of this design.
What have been some of your career highlights thus far?
2014 has been a very exciting year all round. Apart from a two month residency in Paris from February to March, my current exhibition Blindfolded Line, Dancing Through Time at JAG is definitely one of this year’s highlights! I am really excited about this Nando’s Accidental Art World Design Capital project too.
What’s next for you?
I am planning a big international show, another residency and working on a hard cover publication of my most recent work.
See Liza’s website for her full portfolio.
The installation of Liza’s Accidental Art piece takes place during the month of August on the corner of Kloof Street and Park Street in Cape Town, so be sure to pop by to see the progress and the final piece.
Watch out for our interview with the Half Square team about the installation of Liza’s piece.