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Sim Smith presents Always Love, Kate Groobey's third solo exhibition with the gallery.

Thu 21 Mar 2024 to Sat 20 Apr 2024

Fri 10am-4pm, Sat 11am-5pm

Talk: Kate Groobey in conversation with curator and writer Gemma Rolls-Bentley. Thursday 21 March, 6.30pm. RSVP: followed by a drinks reception and live performance by the artist.

Kate Groobey’s latest painting and performance series Always Love reflects on what we can do in personally and politically heart-breaking times, and finds the answer is always love.

Always Love articulates the experience of strong, queer, womanhood at a time of rising homophobia, the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the Woman-Life-Freedom movement, cancel culture and war. To this Groobey upholds the ideals of equality and solidarity, pitching love as the strongest form of resistance.

Groobey’s work features two main protagonists: herself, as her alter ego the ‘female stallion’, and her wife the writer and poet Jina Khayyer. In Always Love this lexicon of motifs extends to the hand, the rose, and the heart, a trio of symbolic tools intended to support, guide, strengthen, and empower her two heroines.

Hold onto my heart is a title borrowed from one of my wife Jina Khayyer’s poems, from her Tear Catcher collection (2023). Hold onto my heart is an offering of support and solidarity. The inflated heart and hand act like life-rafts and my protagonist, Khayyer, holds on, not just with her hands but with her entire body, and repeats, with urgency, ‘I'm holding you, you're holding me.” Kate Groobey, 2024

In Groobey’s oeuvre, the theme of compassionate love, embodied by a set of objects, dates back to a trip to Japan after winning the Daiwa Foundation Prize in 2018. In Kyoto, at the Sanjusangendo temple, Groobey and Khayyer had a memorable encounter with the towering Buddhist goddess of compassion, Senju Kannon, who holds many objects in her 1000 arms to protect the people, like a bell, a mirror, and a moon.

“In Flowers for you my heroines hold a flower in their mouths. The image is emblematic of the greatest offering one can give, love. It remains open as to who is offering the flower to whom. Are they offering the flowers to themselves? Self love, after all, is the foundation of all love. Or are they giving them to, or receiving them from, someone else? Flowers for you expresses the importance of giving love, to yourself and to others.” Kate Groobey, 2024

Groobey’s motifs are first developed in watercolour, then poured, spooned, and dripped onto canvases to create visceral, textured, oil paintings. Groobey's painted heroines don't sit quietly on walls though. Channelling a queer, female gaze, they move and speak in performances wherein Groobey becomes her own characters, bringing them to life using painted costume, dance, and self- made soundtracks that incorporate Khayyer’s voice, in which Groobey and Khayyer's intimate daily conversations become universal mantras of strength, empowerment, and love.

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

Always love, installation at Sim Smith, London, 2024


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