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Venice Biennale 2019: Kate Groobey

Pure Pleasure

9 May — 22 June 2019

Castello 2432, Fondamenta dei Penini, 30122, Venezia
Vaporetto: Arsenale, ACTV 1 – 4.1 – 4.2, Alilaguna linea blu / Celestia, ACTV 4.1 – 4.2 – 5.1 – 5.2
Opening Hours: Closed on Tuesdays otherwise open daily 10am – 6pm

Ikon and a.topos present Pure Pleasure (2018) by British artist Kate Groobey. Consisting of video, dressed mannequin and paintings, this installation – coinciding with the opening of the Venice Biennale 2019 – is as joyful as it is philosophical, informed by the artist’s feminist observations of art history.

At LACMA, I stood looking at a Picasso painting called Man and Woman where the male figure is pointing a knife at the woman’s vagina, when a male security guard (laughing) said, “Picasso was a pig!” That encounter stuck with me and I started to make my Pure Pleasure paintings. I turned my attention to an unexplored perspective in the history of painting, that of a woman painting her female lover, woman on woman, with a desiring female gaze. I realised that when we see a female figure in a painting we are only used to seeing the desiring male gaze or self-portraits. Kate Groobey, 2018

Groobey was born in Leeds (1979). She studied fine art in Oxford and London, and now lives between Yorkshire and the south of France. The latter, with its landscape and lifestyle sharply contrasting with the milieu of her upbringing, inspired her to embark on a series entitled The Good Life (2017), paintings and videos that depict friends and acquaintances aspiring to a wholesome balance between physical and mental wellbeing. There is joie de vivre in their reading, swimming and playing outdoors, but with typical wit Groobey conveys her humane understanding of the difference between ambition and actual achievement.

The Good Life evolved into Pure Pleasure. In a recent interview Groobey explained that she painted a series of nudes and portraits of her partner while they were travelling through California, and this inspired the title:

[It] was something flippant she said, ‘I am pure pleasure’, but that phrase seemed to me to sum up my feelings about the landscape, about paint, about her and about the time of year; it was the start of summer.

There are many, mainly male, artistic precedents for Groobey’s nudes in landscapes -such as Rembrandt, Gauguin and Picasso – a tradition she acknowledges and revels in. Her videos feature her dancing as different painted characters against landscape backdrops, accompanied by happy homemade soundtracks, as she embraces the complexity of sexual politics with a life enhancing spirit.

Exhibition organised by Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK and a.topos, Venice, Italy.

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