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Kate Groobey - Female Stallion 1 - Sim Smith.jpg

Sim Smith, London, October 2022

 

FEMALE STALLION

 

"Female Stallion was conceived against a backdrop of growing homophobia across the globe, the overturning of Roe v. Wade in America, and the ‘Woman Life Freedom’ movement in Iran. I’m dressed as a horse, claiming my place in society today as a queer woman, repeating the words, ‘I am the female stallion, swish my tail, feel alive.’ The horse is a symbol of strength and my swishing tail is a gesture of solidarity and resistance.

 

Get into my Rainbow is my response to anti-LGBTQI+ sentiment in Europe in particular. In 2017, when I visited Yosemite National Park in America with my wife, the writer Jina Khayyer, we were enveloped by a circular rainbow, created by the mist-spray of a giant waterfall. This magical image, of a protective rainbow that encircles the body, symbolising queer pleasure and safety, came back to me in 2021 when I performed in Poland and didn’t feel safe in a country whose state apparatus had introduced new anti-LGBTQI+ laws. Get into my rainbow is an invitation to both the LGBTQI+ and non-LGBTQI+ communities to join together in solidarity.

 

We know from Barbara Kruger’s ‘Your body is a battleground’ that power is rooted in bodies, applied to the body and therefore must be challenged at the level of the body. In 'I like to lick' my heroine demonstrates bodily autonomy, insisting on her right to express her desire, ‘Be in Bloom’ is a directive, a call for self-love, and 'Bouche à Bouche ( Mouth to Mouth ) is a call for open communication and self-expression in the face of all types of repression and marginalisation.

 

My masked performances are something akin to traditional Japanese Nõ theatre, where actor and audience are encouraged to become one with a character in order to practice their skills of empathy, reflecting my belief that practicing empathy towards others is essential for a healthy society." Kate Groobey, 2023

Something close to the reality of love, an essay by Gabriella Pounds, 2022 "The mood is hyper." Kate Groobey explores the zone between ‘reality' and ‘fantasy': the overlap in the Venn diagram where Fact and Verification Needed coil. At 'Female Stallion' the artist has created fictional characters modelled on her (real) wife – the writer and poet Jina Khayyer – that recur throughout her paintings and films. Groobey lifts bits of language from her and Khayyer’s everyday conversations into her art. In Female Stallion, for example, pink and purple paint flecks simulate a fashion freak. She wears very cool sunglasses, an acorn-coloured fedora and poses in front of a blue horse. The artist further ironises the scene in her eponymous performance piece; reanimating the character with in-built iPhone camera settings such as Boomerang. Recordings of Khayyer’s voice rip through Groobey’s films and music like a gentle poltergeist. Khayyer’s interiority appears to be represented, reimagined and shared between human bodies; approximating something close to the reality of love. The ‘personal’ label – so often lackadaisically sucker-punched onto ‘women’s art history’ – is negated here. What a relief. Drawing on medieval Japanese Nō plays, Groobey involves her confessions of a mask, where the limited visibility of the theatre accessory seeks to direct the performer and audience inward, aiding access to the inner galaxy of a character. In concert with the presiding philosophy of medieval Japan, Nō performers, characters and audiences were encouraged to empathically become one mind in many people. Groobey’s characters are unconcerned with symmetry or proportion. Their eyes are wide, limbs stumpy, noses button. They recall cute villagers from the Japanese video game Animal Crossing (2001). Get into my Rainbow depicts a smol figure submerged in a swirl of colour. The mood is hyper. And the artist seeks to inspire feelings of excitement. Groobey’s paintings point towards a futurity of existential autonomy without the heaviness of the 'I'. Baby pink, [aqua] green and a spill of [white] oils comprise Be in Bloom. Spears of wild flowers grow from the protagonist’s hair. And underscore the psychedelic ontologies latent in the natural world. Groobey’s compositions and headless drips of paint, meanwhile, evoke the German painter George Baselitz’s remix paintings, which in turn were a repurposing of Jackson Pollock’s abstractions into anti-heroic narratives. Evocative of cum shots, the artist reworks Baselitz’s failed hyper-masculinities into her own feminist art history. Looking at Goobey’s paintings, I am reminded of another Austrian doomer who expunged the ego shit in his – successful – anti–quest for the literary Universal. ‘I avoid [art] whenever possible, because whenever possible I avoid myself,’ the novelist Thomas Bernhard once wrote. Amen brother. Gabriella Pounds is a writer and critic from Brighton.