Isabelle Grobler Residency


During her two month long stay in Israel, Isabelle Grobler, the second participant of the Tiroche DeLeon Residency program, evolved as an artist and created a new body of remarkable artworks.

Isabelle Grobler, ' the cannibal's congress: founding ideology', 2015, charcoal, pitt, colour pencil, graphite, compressed charcoal, oil paint, soft pastel on paper, 150x300 cm.

Isabelle used the Residency as a departure point to explore new practices and find creative inspiration for her installations and drawings. Working in the START studio in Jaffa, she developed ‘ the cannibal's congress’, a body of new work that was showcased alongside the opening of START's new offices and gallery. The event was a resounding success with hundreds of visitors that came to admire her art.

'The cannibal’s congress' forms part of Isabelle’s ongoing project 'the cannibal’s banquet’, where she explores the politics of consumption as a psychological and social human condition. In her works, the artist questions the psychological and ideological implications of the reproduction of culture within society, which she considers a form of 'psychological cannibalism'. Isabelle explains: 'Our mothers and fathers consume our minds before we are aware of it ourselves, just as their parents did before them. They teach and expose us (or do not teach and do not expose us) to everything we come to know. This is how our minds are constructed. These practices and beliefs govern us for the rest of our lives. Most people never stop to question or challenge this and so the cycle continues.'

Among the most impressive pieces from the new series produced by Isabelle during her stay are the sculptural installation 'wedding night' and the huge drawing 'founding ideology', both demonstrative of Isabelle's unique mechanistic and abstract visual language.

Isabelle Grobler,  'the cannibal's congress: the wedding night', 2015, mixed media assemblage.

In her works, the South African artist creates surreal environments populated by hybrid machine-organisms constructed from urban debris. In particular, for 'the wedding night', she used a variety of discarded objects founded in the streets and beaches of Jaffa and Tel Aviv, and assembled them with the traditional Jewish symbol of the shofar, creating new meanings that challenge concepts of authority and tradition. The spaces she constructs in both her installations and drawings are dreamlike and alien: based on reality, but reconfigured by the unconscious where recognizable things and ideas have been shuffled and reinterpreted to produce a Kafkaesque ambiguity. The sculptural characters vacillate, like Frankenstein’s monster, between the threatening and the pathetic, representing a transformation of dead things into unclassifiable beings.

Isabelle Grobler (b.1982), was born is Pretoria and grew up in Bloemfontein and spent her childhood years between the family farm and town. After a career as a Junior Springbok hockey player, Isabelle proved her versatility by completing her BA degree in Fine Art at the University of the Free State in 2009 and her Master of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town in 2012. She currently lives in Cape Town where she works as a full-time artist.

Isabelle, who is now in the UK, continues to develop 'the Cannibal's Congress' for her forthcoming exhibition at Sulger Buel Gallery in London, opening November 5th. We urge you to visit.

Artist Testimony

"The Residency was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. I feel I have developed tremendously as an artist and 'the cannibal’s congress' has set me on a path for future work. The residency is incredible and really offers something unique. I doubt there is anything else like it in the world.  

Also, I feel I have developed as a person. Through meeting wonderful people; I arrived in Israel holding very specific views but I have learned much about the complexity of the situation and the people. I truly hope that there could be a peaceful resolution and freedom for all in such a historically rich, culturally creative and to my surprise naturally beautiful country.

The Tiroche DeLeon and START team has been amazing; they have helped and supported me all the way. They have a great energy and made me feel at home and welcome every second."

Serge Tiroche said: "I discovered Isabelle's work while strolling the Art15 fair in London early this year. I found her solo presentation there to be by far the most ambitious, courageous, interesting and innovative of all booths. A complete newcomer to the art fair circuit, Isabelle spoke to me with great eloquence about her practice and despite being so young and being presented by a courageous new gallery, I decided on the spot that I would find a way to support her. I am so glad she spontaneously accepted my invitation to the residency program, where she did not fail to impress again, producing a remarkable body of work. She holds great promise, can't wait to see how her family of sweet cannibal's evolve."

Isabelle Grobler is represented by Sulger-Buel Lovell Gallery