Sue Greeff – Eclectica Contemporary
From Sea Point and Simons Town to The Luxembourg Gardens and Le Marais and back again
Sue Greeff is a well-loved Cape Town based artist, whose collectors and friends are well acquainted with her layered and lyrical practice, but how did she fare in a different continent, a different city, and a different art context, and in French to top it off? She flourished. The results of her two-month residency with the esteemed Cité des Arts Paris could be seen across the walls of the Eclectica Contemporary booth at this year’s Investec Cape Town Art Fair 2020, with motifs of historical painting and renaissance masterpieces imbued in her new works. From the titles of her works, to the suggestions of figures in her inky mixed media works, the impressions of Paris are traced through her works.
The Cite des Arts is a residency hosted in the heart of Le Marais district of Paris, next to the banks of the Seine. Through an ongoing partnership, South African artists may be selected to attend the residency and are given the opportunity to live and work within the Cité building, alongside artists from other countries. During her time in Paris, Greeff was given access to the museums and art galleries in Paris, which naturally made an impact on her thinking and approach to working while she was there.
Having trained and worked as a midwife in her twenties, Greeff’s practice continues to draw on her experience and understanding of the birthing process, the body and the mythology of human existence in its various forms and across different traditions. Having access to the Louvre Museum meant that Greeff could make return trips and engage in focused observation and create studies of the works before returning to her studio to respond to the experience and thought that arose through this process. These invaluable experiences can be observed in her piece The Three Graces and the recurring motif of the figure of Eve within her pieces. Her work demonstrates her interest in the narratives surrounding creation, sexuality and fertility, where she is drawn to pieces that attempt to illustrate these concepts across the history of the western art cannon. In andromeda under pink sea, Greeff has picked up on form, rearticulating a Kiki Smith sculptural work as a small painting of ink and pigment on board. Through this piece and other pieces, she highlights critical female characters across mythology and situates them within her fluid-y, liquid-like worlds.
Greeff described her time in Paris as “a fertile hotbed that is just non-stop, it has excited me to get into my practice and keep making work. I think that traveling is a wonderful opportunity for any artist. I feel that it keeps my heart open, it keeps me sensitised to the world, and especially as a woman, and what relates universally, that I can bring into my work”. She explains further that from her different experiences in different careers, it can often feel like the world is wanting to decide for and dictate the behaviours of women, so in her work she is conscious of not being didactic. She says, “it’s an opportunity for the viewer to engage with the work and to come to their own conclusions”, through the cues and suggestions presented in forms, colours and titles.
During her time in Paris, Greeff began working on different surfaces and experimenting with different sizes. Thinking about transportation, movement and travel she began repurposing the pages of books, pieces of foamcore and board and integrated stitching and layering of different materials. Her piece mamman II and pink sea explore dimension and surface through the introduction of a grid of stitched together book pages layered with smaller paintings in mamman II and colour washes that hint at swabs or flesh in pink sea. In eve I and the three graces she integrates iconic large paintings onto foamcore as small details within her work, bringing art history and her impressions of Paris into the textures of her aesthetic.
The experience of Paris and accessing the rich history and traditions of artists in the city has joined the river of Greeff’s practice as she flows onto what comes next. When asked what she has planned she invoked her midwifery practice through metaphors explaining that, “it feels like there needs to be a bit of an incubation period for things to percolate. And then there’ll be a birthing!”
As a South African artist, based in Cape Town, Sue Greeff is represented by Eclectica Contemporary and her work is featured in collections around the world. Her recent body of work was featured at the Investec Cape Town Art Fair and her work can be found at Eclectica Contemporary in Cape Town.