Female Stallion, 2022, 2:05 mins, UHD video
Female Stallion, Sim Smith London, 2022
Sim Smith is proud to present Female Stallion, Kate Groobey's second solo exhibition at the gallery. The exhibition develops across large oil paintings, accompanying performances and film. The protagonist of these works, Groobey's wife, the writer and poet Jina Khayyer is not only the beating heart of this show but its stimulation across Groobey's rich and abundant practice. It is a show that explores what it means to be a Female Stallion in today's world.
There are six large oil paintings in Groobey’s new painting series Female Stallion with accompanying performances that see the paintings brought to life by Groobey herself, who dresses up as her character in painted costumes, performing improvised dances in front of painted backdrops to music of her own creation. Speaking the language of social media to draw us in and immerse us in her world, Groobey has created a video-series made on her iPhone, incorporating a series of movements developed with BOOMERANG and in-built camera features like LIVE, SLO-MO and BOUNCE.
The protagonist in Groobey’s paintings is her wife, the writer and poet Jina Khayyer. Each of the paintings is based on conversations between Groobey and Khayyer which centre around their everyday life. Groobey uses text, taken from their conversations, to bypass the traditional male-gaze, giving Khayyer agency to instruct, inform and invite the viewer.
By inserting words into the paintings and recordings of Khayyer’s own voice into the performance soundtrack, we hear Khayyer. She informs us that she likes to lick ice-cream. She tells us that she is a Female Stallion. The horse is also a Female Stallion, we see only its face, the body is cropped and therefore exists imaginatively beyond the edge of the canvas in our viewing space, as if we are entangled or invited to imagine ourselves as a female stallion too. In Be in Bloom, Khayyer instructs us to bloom and demonstrates the act of blooming, flowers springing out of her head. There is a more direct invitation to enter the work in Get into my Rainbow. Groobey invites us to step perceptually through the picture plane with her to impress upon us the exaggerated feelings of pleasure we get from seeing rainbows, from feeling equal and happy, from licking an ice-cream, from kissing, talking and trusting, from looking at flowers and being in nature.
In the Female Stallion performances the invitation to enter into Groobey and Khayyer’s world is extended. Groobey talks about the Female Stallion performances in relation to Japanese Nō theatre, which Groobey and Khayyer encountered firsthand when they traveled to Japan in 2018 for the UK’s Daiwa Prize Residency. Like Groobey’s performances, Nō uses masks which have an extremely limited field of vision. For Nō, as for Groobey, this limitation is meant to direct the engagement of performer and audience inwards so they can more easily enter into the inner world of the character. The performer shouldn’t just imitate the character but ‘become’ the character so that the audience can become totally immersed in the characters inner life. The goal of Nō performance is the meeting of minds between performer, character and audience. Its form was developed in the 1300’s as a practice to help audiences practice empathy towards others, reflecting Japan’s dominant philosophical ideas, of Buddhism and Confucianism, and the belief that practicing empathy towards others was necessary to good citizenship and personal fulfilment. In this spirit, Groobey invites us to change our subject position and flex our empathetic muscles.
The title piece, Female Stallion, depicts Khayyer, sitting cocksure in the mouth of a giant blue horse. Each makes their body physically vulnerable and open to the other in a moment that is charged and tender. One holds the other in her mouth, one of the most delicate and intimate parts of the body. One puts her whole body in the trust of the other. The portrait was inspired when, on their morning run, passing the field next to their house, where their neighbour’s horses are kept, Khayyer observed how combatively the female horse defended her territory, calling her a ‘female stallion’, which since then they have used as synonym for strong women and the balancing of masculine and feminine energies. In the Female Stallion performance, Groobey becomes the horse, her tail symbolising bodily strength and power. Groobey holds it in her hand, swishing it back and forth like a paintbrush, flicking her wrist the same way she throws paint onto the canvas.
There is a second Female Stallion painting, where Khayyer sits on the back of the blue horse. Groobey’s blue horse nods to Khayyer’s German roots by way of Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) group, formed in Germany in 1912, and in particular to Franz Marc’s Blue Horse 1, which Khayyer showed to Groobey at the Lenbachhaus Museum on a trip to Munich. For Der Blaue Reiter group the horse symbolised creative energy, and the rider symbolised the artist who controls it. Groobey’s horse and rider seem to be in a moment of creative conflict: representing a struggle with her own doubt, Khayyer’s inner horse is uncertain and looking backwards while Khayyer gently reassures her with one hand and points the way forwards with the other hand. It’s a painting about trusting yourself.
I Like to Lick was inspired when, enjoying an ice-cream in Venice, Khayyer explained playfully to Groobey’s curator why a cup of ice-cream cannot replace a cone, saying, ’I like to lick’. Groobey enjoyed the awkward innuendo. It is these moments, that stick in the memory, that Groobey later translates into drawings, paintings and performances. In the I Like to Lick performance, the long tongue has something brushlike about it, dipping into the ice-cream as if it was a cone of paint rather than ice-cream.
Bouche à Bouche depicts two hands, each holding a pair of lips. The painting was inspired when Groobey’s eighty-year old mother-in-law visited them in France and said ‘Everyone likes a bit of bouche à bouche (French for mouth to mouth).’ Groobey was immediately drawn to the sassy expression of her mother-in-law and the idea that desire never ends. For Groobey lips are a symbol of communication. After moving to France, Groobey experienced for the first time what it’s like to live in a country without speaking or understanding the language. The giant mouth in Female Stallion, the long tongue in I Like to Lick and the two pairs of big lips in Bouche à Bouche are symbolic of Groobey’s linguistic struggles. In the Bouche à Bouche performance the two giant hands move rhythmically back and forth, up and down, reminding us that it is the hands that communicate meaning in painting.
Get into my Rainbow depicts Khayyer standing in the middle of a rainbow. When they visited a waterfall in Yosemite National Park in America they found that the mist-spray from the waterfall fills the whole area and when the sun shines through the trees it creates a circular rainbow around your body. The idea of an enveloping rainbow stuck with Groobey. In this painting, the power of the rainbow as a symbol of happiness, a path to prosperity (to a pot of gold), and a queer symbol, is coupled with the text, ‘Get into my Rainbow’, something Groobey said when she noticed the Yosemite rainbow around her waist. In the Get into my Rainbow performance we see Groobey surrounded by colours and spinning around, showing us how it feels to stand in the middle of one of her large canvases and paint.
Be in Bloom was inspired by Groobey and Khayyer’s new life in nature, in rural south of France, watching the farmers at work all-year-round, noticing how the harvest is related to conditions like ground preparation, how much sun, how much water, how much care to produce a bloom and a harvest and how, like an artists practice, it is rooted in manual labour and patience. The body works to produce the bloom, while the head-bloom is the birth of ideas, the most powerful seed to plant. Germans use the word Kopfgeburt or head-birth (Kopf means head, Geburt means birth) to refer to imaginings and ideas, things that do not exist in the physical world yet. Painting Female Stallion, Groobey purposefully exaggerated her use of drips and droplets. Drips and drops, which in older series happened accidentally, begin to engulf Groobey’s imagery as she layers them on top of an already excited surface of bubbling paint. While making the show, Groobey visited the Georg Baselitz retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, returning several times to look at Baselitz remix paintings. Baselitz, a self-professed Jackson Pollock fan, incorporated Pollock-esque drips into his remix style, taking Pollock’s macho heroic drip gesture and fashioning it into his own macho anti-heroic narrative. Groobey began to question, if the drips represent ejaculation, and she had controlled her use of the drip in the past, what would happen if she let go and unleashed the drips?
Is the drip a necessarily masculine gesture? Will it make my work macho?
Female Stallion, 2022, oil on canvas, 200 x 150 cm
Female Stallion 2, 2022, oil on canvas, 200 x 150 cm
I Like to Lick, 2022, oil on canvas, 195 x 150 cm
Get into my Rainbow, 2022, oil on canvas, 200 x 150 cm
Be in Bloom, 2022, oil on canvas, 195 x 150 cm
Bouche à Bouche (mouth to mouth), 2022, oil on canvas, 200 x 150 cm
I Like to Lick, 1.37 mins, UHD video
Get into my Rainbow, 2022, 3.07 mins, UHD video
Be in Bloom, 2022, 2.13 mins, UHD video
Bouche à Bouche (mouth to mouth), 2022, 2.08 mins, UHD video
Female Stallion, installation, SIM SMITH, London, 2022
Plinth, Horsing Around by Eloise Hendy, 2022
In a way, all artists are clowns. Not in the sense of being comic performers — ‘characterised,’ as International Clown Hall of Fame puts it, ‘by coloured wigs, makeup, outlandish costumes and usually oversized shoes’ — but in the more ancient sense of defying convention, mocking authority, and causing disruption. Of being tricksters; subversive truth tellers. The artist and the clown inhabit two worlds at once: the ‘real world’ of the everyday, and the land of the imagination, which is populated by symbols, archetypes and fantasy. Taken to their illogical conclusions, artistry and clownery resemble magic — rattling reality through a series of tricks.
Kate Groobey’s art is the work of clownery par excellence. In her new solo exhibition Female Stallion, everyday moments become extraordinary flights of fantasy. Each of the six vast and textured paintings in Groobey’s series spin around conversations and comments between the artist and her wife, the writer and poet Jina Khayyer. In each, Khayyer becomes an archetype or clown of sorts – features smoothed into cartoonish blankness, represented by rouged lips, dark eyes that sometimes become sunglasses, and a jaunty brown hat. This Khayyer cipher sits on the back of a blue horse. Later, she perches in the horse’s mouth. She stands encircled by a rainbow. Flowers bloom from her head. With an outsized, aardvark-like tongue, she licks ice cream. And, all the while, a video loops on one of the gallery walls, featuring Groobey dressed as her character in painted costumes and giant heads. Half horse, half woman, all female stallion, Groobey literally horses around: performing in staccato movements as Khayyer’s voice loops through the soundtrack; inviting the viewer into her rainbow, instructing us to bloom. So, there are tricks and symbols, and it just so happens, there are also outlandish costumes, wigs, big boots, and a hefty dose of subversive, spirited humour.
‘At the base of it,’ Groobey says, ‘is the idea of painting coming alive.’ Certainly, in her video performances it seems as if her oily protagonist has stepped straight off the canvas. And, as a trickster tease, at one end of the gallery space a mannequin in a horse-suit and head stands with a tiny Khayyer cipher in its mouth. Having just seen Groobey in this guise on screen, swishing and flicking the long horse tail in a repetitive burlesque, it really feels like the doll could spring into action at any second. Recently, Groobey realised that her interest in fantastical, animated paintings ‘perhaps established itself in childhood, from Roald Dahl’s The Witches, where there was a painting with a little girl trapped in it, who was moving around.’ Later, just before studying at the RCA, Groobey read the Harry Potter books, ‘and again, there were these paintings that move. I think that idea really sunk into my mind.’
Of the many pleasurable aspects of Groobey’s work, a crucial one is her ability to absorb her surroundings and experiences, trotting them out anew in her paintings and performances. Nothing, it seems, is off limits. In 2018, Groobey won the Daiwa Foundation Art Prize – the first woman to do so in the history of the award. ‘Part of that prize,’ Groobey explains, ‘is to travel to Japan to do an exhibition there.’ In Japan, the Foundation ‘helped facilitate you with whatever you want to do,’ Groobey says, and ‘one of the things I wanted to do, along with Sumo’ was experience Japanese Nō theatre firsthand. Often based on tales from traditional literature with supernatural beings transformed into human form, Nō incorporates masks, costumes and props in a dance-based performance, where emotions are primarily conveyed by stylized gestures. ‘I was so struck by it in such a surprising way,’ Groobey says of her encounter with the classical Japanese dance-drama: ‘It almost sent you into a trance.’ Reading about it afterwards, Groobey says she learned ‘the idea behind it was really to remove the barriers between the performer, the character, and the audience. So you become one with this character.’ She was fascinated by this notion, and the trance-like state it induced in her. ‘It almost shifts your subject position,’ Groobey says, ‘to be completely engulfed in the universe, and the inner universe of this character.’
Watching Groobey’s masked, stylized moves on screen, and sensing the slippage — in both the performances and the paintings – between her and Khayyer’s universe, that of the audience, and the imaginary realm in which they all become one, it is clear the influence Nō had on Female Stallion. Yet, the video series in particular was also inspired by more contemporary performance styles. ‘I got a new iPhone,’ Groobey says frankly. ‘When I got this new one,’ she continues, ‘I started playing around on it and Boomeranging my footage of myself.’ As with Nō, Groobey found herself ‘captivated by how that kind of drew me in, almost hypnotically. Just one movement repeated.’ She decided to try and incorporate the technique into her video work, describing the end result as ‘almost like a series of Boomerangs inserted into or built into the footage of me performing.’ Or, like a Nō performer with an Instagram; a millennial mime artist. Much more than a visual trick, the essential element is empathy. ‘I just think,’ Groobey says, ‘in the current times we're in, the idea of being able to shift your subject position and be open to other people is so important.’
Female Stallion looks like a zany, campy fairytale, but, as in a Roald Dahl story, there is a darkness underneath the bright surface. Groobey hints at this when describing how the painting Get into my Rainbow came to be. Having been enveloped by a mystical rainbow when visiting Yosemite National Park with Khayyer in 2017 – one made circular by sunlight shining through an all-encompassing mist-spray – Groobey relates how the image came back to her suddenly years later, while performing in Poland. ‘The rainbow really came into my mind in that moment because, understanding the political situation where the government is anti-LGBT in laws and against that community, it felt very uncomfortable going there to perform,’ Groobey says, ‘and that rainbow, that protective rainbow came into my mind.’ Now, in both the oil painting and its corresponding performance, the rainbow rings the central character like a flotation device — a life-saving swimming accessory that symbolises queer pleasure and safety.
When asked if her work is political, Groobey is emphatic: ‘it is. Yes. Definitely.’ Like empathy, pleasure is also essential to this. Indeed, Groobey suggests that Female Stallion should be understood as a companion piece, of sorts, to her earlier series Pure Pleasure, which was displayed at Ikon in 2018. After the show, ‘I had so many messages from completely random women on Instagram, just saying how wonderful it made them feel, how it made them feel so good,’ Groobey says, with clear happiness in her voice. ‘It was very special,’ she affirms of the experience, ‘and it really touched me.’ Groobey wanted to carry this forward. ‘When I was thinking what I wanted for this show,’ she says, ‘I really wanted to offer a space, a female space and queer space, for people to enter into.’ The whole show then, is perhaps encapsulated by the rainbow ring, and Groobey and Khayyer’s joint invitation to ‘get into’ it – to be joyfully engulfed.
‘Really,’ Groobey says reflectively, ‘this has been a bit of a breakthrough show for me.’ She made the series over the pandemic period, during which she and Khayyer moved to the rural south of France. At the same time, of course, ‘normal’ life was put on hold. As Groobey puts it, ‘all the shows were cancelled, all my shows were cancelled.’ Yet, in this stripped back state, she found ‘clarity of thought.’ ‘It's easier to think in the countryside,’ Groobey explains, ‘there isn't so much distraction. Not so much noise.’ In this period of relative quiet, Groobey discovered that ‘things came together that had been unresolved for years.’ Admitting to having been ‘quite blocked in the beginning,’ she ‘was able to step back a bit more.’ Part of this was purely practical – ‘in the countryside I had more space, so I was literally able to step back’ — but there was an emotional and intellectual aspect too. ‘I really did take everything apart and think again,’ Groobey says. The ability to step back, paradoxically meant she was ‘able to take the next step.’ She likens this experience to ‘a record player,’ highlighting how ‘it catches, and then it really starts again,’ but this burst of energy also sounds a bit like a painting coming alive. Indeed, Groobey’s whole creative process seems like a magic trick – sparking into being from Khayyer’s comments and innuendos and transforming into line drawings, then watercolours, then big oils. ‘Finally it gets almost like a snowball,’ Groobey says, ‘gaining traction and momentum, and then it kind of explodes off the canvas.’ Ready to dance, disrupt, and beckon towards pleasure.
By Eloise Hendy for Plinth
Studio International, interview by Anna McNay, 2022
Kate Groobey – interview: ‘The drip, for me, is pure joy and a kind of thrill’
Kate Groobey (b1979, Leeds) combines painting and performance to break down barriers between her audience, her protagonist and herself as performer. For her latest series, Female Stallion, which comprises six large canvases with their associated soundtracks and performances, her muse is her wife, the writer and poet Jina Khayyer, and her purpose is to create a safe, feminine and queer space, which might ideally make people feel inspired, stronger and more empowered.
Groobey, who studied at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, University of Oxford, and the Royal College of Art, London, was the first woman to win the prestigious Daiwa Foundation Art Prize in 2018. The ensuing residency in Japan provided plentiful inspiration for her work, as have her many other encounters with different cultures and languages. It is perhaps unsurprising that the mouth – and lips and tongue – are common motifs and focal points in her paintings.
The artist talks about bringing her paintings to life through performance, diverse cultural and linguistic influences, and – the subject of her current show – the concept of a ‘female stallion.’
In her performances, the protagonist literally steps out of the canvas, as Groobey dresses as, embodies and becomes her character. Both the performances and the paintings are full of vigour, and her unencumbered gestural style is energetic and dynamic.
In this Zoom interview for Studio International, Groobey talks about her process, her inspirations and the importance of painting as a means of communication.
Anna McNay: I want to start with the description of the works in your current exhibition, Female Stallion, on the gallery ’s website. It reads: “There are six large oil paintings in Groobey’s new painting series Female Stallion with accompanying performances that see the paintings brought to life by Groobey herself, who dresses up as her character in painted costumes, performing improvised dances in front of painted backdrops to music of her own creation.” This sentence is pretty breathtaking – both in its scope, but also literally because, to be exhaustive, it has to be so long. If you had to condense it a little, how would you describe yourself as an artist?
Kate Groobey: I’m a painter. I began with the performance in 2015, around the time I moved to Paris, when I met my wife, the writer and poet Jina Khayyer. I didn’t have a studio to begin with, because moving from London to Paris, it took me a while to find my feet. The idea of dressing up as my paintings came to me as I asked myself what I could do, what I could make, in that period. This was something I could do in the apartment. But the idea of a painting coming to life had established itself much earlier, probably even in childhood. There is a little girl, Erica, who becomes trapped in a painting in Roald Dahl’s The Witches. And I had read the Harry Potter books with the moving portraits as well. So, I think those ideas were embedded. There is an excitement for me in activating my paintings. They are already very physical. I have always liked to make big paintings. This was the next step, really.
AMc: Do you now create the performance at the same time as the painting, or does the painting still come first?
KG: It’s more comfortable for me to make the oil paintings first. But, before these, come the watercolours. That’s really how I think through my ideas. And then the editing process begins, where I start to think about how I might create a series or a connected body of work from the ideas. I like to produce a lot of ideas in watercolour, and also as drawings. Then I start to conceptualise them and select those which could turn into large paintings and performances. Normally, one series will comprise between six and 10 paintings.
AMc: I was going to ask you about the series and whether they exist in your mind before you make the works, or appear as these accumulate. Are you saying you conceive the series first?
KG: The drawings come first, but they are very much from my subconscious. I’m not really thinking at that point. I have a big box of drawings. Then I start with the watercolours, which are somewhere in between drawings and paintings. I will maybe spend six months just making watercolours. Then, at the end of that time, I look through them and start to edit. I think through what’s happening in them and what the main ideas are. I ask myself how I can select between six and 10 images to create something that can turn into a series or a show. The concept is then slowly developed over a couple of years. I might start with just one image, and then, after I have painted that, see how I feel. It can change. It’s not necessarily the case that I select six, and it stays as that six. I might re-edit – reselect – based on how I feel after I have made the first one.
AMc: It sounds as if you create a form of Gesamtkunstwerk [a total work of art] with your series – in fact, even with each painting and associated performance. Do the paintings stand alone, or are the performative elements imperative?
KG: They are conceived together, and they are the most powerful when they are shown together, but, once they are out in the world, they can go their own way.
AMc: I don’t know if this is the same for all your series, but, for Female Stallion, some of the paintings were inspired in part by things you had heard being said. Do you note down words and snippets of conversation while you are in your drawing or watercolour stages?
KG: Quite often, yes. Jina might say something, and I will go and grab a piece of paper. I might then sit and play around with how to manifest it into a visual. There is no one way of doing things, but that ’s how I have been working for quite a few years now. A lot of my paintings come from someone just saying something which sticks in my mind.
AMc: Maybe connected to this, a lot of the imagery in the Female Stallion series is related to the mouth. Is this symbolic? I Like to Lick certainly has innuendo in it.
KG: There is sexual innuendo, yes. But, also, I moved to France, not speaking the language, because Jina lived here. We did it at school, of course, but I wasn’t a high achiever in French class. I’m trying to learn it now and really starting from scratch. But painting is a form of communication, too, and so these ideas all mixed together in my mind. It all centres on the mouth, because it has to learn to make new shapes in French. In order to speak the words, I have had to build new muscles. When I first tried to say certain things, my mouth just wouldn’t function as necessary. So, even just on this very basic physical level, the mouth is interesting.
AMc: What took you down to live in the rural south of France?
KG: I was living between England and Paris. Then there was the Bataclan attack. Jina has a Middle Eastern background. She was born in Germany, but she’s Iranian, and so it really hit her hard. The year 2015 was a year of turmoil in many ways, and we started questioning how and where we would like to live. We went on a two-year living-and-working-on-the-road mission, where we exchanged work for accommodation, to explore our possibilities. Jina always had a sweet spot for the south of France – one of her best friends has a family home here in Provence – so we looked, found and moved.
AMc: Does where you are affect your work – beyond the linguistic input we have already spoken about?
KG: Yes, definitely. The textures of Provence have entered into my work. The way I make the paint now is very thick, very textured, bubbling. You can’t really see it in photos. This comes from everything here being made from limestone, or covered in lime mortar, which, over time, develops thick textured patinas. Of course, the culture also enters into my work. Bouche à Bouche is my first French performance, with Jina’s voice on the soundtrack. And the light of the Luberon is very special, very white. That’s why all the great artists came here – Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh.
AMc: We have already mentioned the sexual innuendo in I Like to Lick. Then there is Get Into My Rainbow, which also makes use of a motif recognisably associated with lesbian and gay pride. How important is your sexuality – and autobiography – in your work?
KG: Autobiography has become very important. After my father was diagnosed with cancer, I realised I had to address that topic in my work. It was the only way I could make anything meaningful. I hadn’t made such explicitly autobiographical work before that. It was maybe there in the undertones, but not so directly. Now, whatever the main feelings or events are in my life is what goes into the work. For each series, it’s a question of what is important to me while I’m producing the work.
AMc: What was important to you while you were creating the Female Stallion series? There are so many influences that come together here.
KG: One show that really helped me crystallise what I wanted for this exhibition was Pure Pleasure, which was shown at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham and the Mizuma Gallery in Tokyo, in 2018. I had a lot of response from the public, who sent messages saying how inspiring the show was, and how good it made them feel. That was quite special for me, that a show I had made could really inspire people. Part of what I wanted for this show was to create a really beautiful, safe, feminine and queer space, which could inspire others and make people feel a bit stronger or a bit more empowered.
AMc: You say you wanted to create a“feminine and queer space”. You’re a female painter with a female muse. What is your take on the male gaze? Are you deliberately trying to subvert it?
KG: As a figurative painter, I have to engage with it and ask myself questions. If I do certain things in my painting, what is the difference? I’m not sure I have the answers, but I think it’s important to be aware and to ask those questions.
AMc: I guess, for example, you use the drip a lot in this series. I know you like Jackson Pollock, and his drip painting has sometimes been likened to ejaculation. What is the drip for you?
KG: The drip, for me, is pure joy and a kind of thrill. That’s what brought me to painting as a teenager: the thrill of paint, the thrill of colour, the thrill of the substance. I’m adopting the drip as a female-desiring gesture.
AMc: How do you paint on a more practical level? Do you have the canvas on the wall, on an easel, or on the ground for the drip?
KG: It has to be flat on the ground. I’m usually standing in it, or over it. It’s an immersive process where I’m very much in the midst of all the colour and all the mess.
AMc: Is that for the whole painting, not just the drips?
KG: For the whole painting. It’s painted very wet. The paint is liquid.
AMc: How long do you spend working on one canvas, if you need to keep the paint liquid?
KG: There’s a lot of groundwork preparing the canvas, but the actual painting, ideally, is one day – a long day. It can go over to two days. It’s really performative. It’s this big release of energy. And that’s exciting for me.
AMc: It completely makes sense, then, that the performances are you coming out of painting.
KG: Yes, they echo each other. The live performances, and the video performances, give a feel of this explosion of energy and excitement.
AMc: With Jina’s voice on the soundtrack, your body performing and your painted work it must feel somehow uniting?
KG: There is a mixing of bodies. This is the first time we have used her voice on the soundtrack.
AMc: Can you say something about the 14th-century Japanese performance style known as Nō theatre, which you encountered first-hand when you travelled to Japan in 2018 for the Daiwa Prize Residency? You draw on this influence for even further “coming together” in your work.
KG: The idea of Nō is that the members of the audience have to do a lot of work. They aren ’t passive. They have to enter into the work and really get into the psychology of the character and the person performing. The performer shouldn’t just imitate the character but should “become” them. They give their self over to the character. There is a coming together of the audience, the character and the performer and an illusion of there not being any barriers between them. I think this is quite relevant to my subject and to a time when people are trying to break down barriers and walls between them. It is really an invitation to be open to change your perspective, your subject position, and to enter into someone else’s world. I think that is what is behind it for me.
AMc: As you say, it’s painting – and your wider practice – as a form of communication. Especially with the repetition of words and phrases in the soundtrack. It’s a bit like learning a language and having to repeat something over and over.
KG: I hadn’t thought of it like that, but yes.
AMc: Can you say anything about the concept of a “female stallion”? Where did that come from?
KG: It’s a moment from our everyday life. Every morning, Jina and I go running together. As we live in the countryside in the south of France, there are a lot of animals around. Our neighbours have two horses and two donkeys. Every morning, we see the two horses. There’s a yellow male horse and a black female horse. For a long time, I thought the black horse was the male, because she was so alert and almost aggressive in her mannerisms. She would shake her head at us, snort, and sometimes go up on her back legs. One day, Jina said: “This is a female stallion!” That then became our way of describing any kind of strong woman, and it felt like it should be the title piece of this show.
By Anna McNay for Studio International 2022
Review of 'Get into my Rainbow', included in NADA Curated 'Like a child' by Daonne Huff, 2022, by Rebecca Geldard
Review: NADA Curated 'Like a child'
"It's hard not to love the art of Kate Groobey, which makes it a curious thing to think about before beginning to assess why that is. Its gloriousness lies in the simplicity of her approach - but of course elaborately manufactured in ways that hide a heap of complexities. Harnessing the power of perhaps the worst of performance art conceits she creates living moments of the human subject as already depicted, in the round. The joys, problematics and multidimensional ideas around what it means to represent a thought, act or moment are combined and revealed through a ridiculous lens alive to the question of why we exist at all. In the venn mix of this we are freed from the specifics of all processes in play to consider that rare thing in the days of perpetual recording - the elusive state of actual presence "
Rebecca Geldard, Apple and Hat, 2022