Interview with Cécilia Granara
Banshee Mag Publication
1. Can you introduce us to the characters in your most recent paintings?
Well, for now there is Ratty, Puzzle and Ex-Wife.
Ratty is an androgynous rat who is the cousin of Splinter from the well known Teenage Mutant Ninja
Turtles. This rat is very wise which can be seen by its excellent posture and the direct but moving
eyes which seem to have an aloof ot
problem. Ratty steals from time to time but only from mean guys and always uses it for the greater
Puzzle, is a frightened puzzle piece character also occasionally mistaken for bread. The puzzle
appears overwhelmed and dreadfully frightened by having totally underestimated the difficulty of
teamwork and of playing his part. He is disorganised and dithery. Puzzle has some unresolved
personal issues to do with self-acceptance and often reverts to social media in a desperate attempt
to find friends and meaning.
And Ex-wife is the ex-wife of a prominent politician and is depicted with a red eye-mask, hat and
sunglasses. Her eccentric disguise accentuate her skills as an aggressive master teacher and powerful
transformative hero. She is a sassy lady with great clothes and too many lovers. She is much tougher
than her ex-husband and is often accused of wearing too many jewels and making holes in things
with her high heels. She’s a bad woman feeling good!
2. Would you say that your current practice is also a way to reflect, at a distance, on your
relationship to South-African identity, whatever that may mean ?
Yes, I would say that is part of what I want to explore as an artist, and it influences the way I see the
world about me. As South Africans, we have seen tumultuous change and there is obviously much
discourse about issues such as redress, colonialization, globalisation and so on. One sees the
interface between the First and Third World up close. I’m trying to explore stereotypes and
empowerment in the context of the subterranean world of sewers and interconnected passages. The
characters are in a kind of political afterlife. That becomes part of the material that I would like to
work with when dealing with painting. I see this as an opportunity because South Africa is so
emblematic an example of discrimination. There are issues that as a South African, I can touch on,
that relate to histories other than my own and other than our national history through the ideas and
memories evoked using this example.
Painting is history with colour. South Africa is a history related to colour as an oppressive measure of
difference. The importance of exploring history through colour also takes on additional meaning in
this sense though more as a way to reflect on the arbitrary attribution of meaning through colour
(history?) than as any desire on my part to bring painting and the world into direct congruence.
Pictures, reveal real world power dynamics between the stories that are told and those that aren’t, as
well as showing just how arbitrary history can be by the ways that it is told or shown. Painting
becomes quite an appropriate medium for exploring the seriousness of what is at play when one toys
with the irreducible and problematic matter of the past.
I can also explore the intertwinedness of who I am as an individual and what metanarratives I am part
of in the present and historically.
3. Can painting be healing for you?
Yes, a lubricant for the soul. It’s the best way to reconcile some
of the disjunctures in the world and to play with it. I kept asking myself about my position... where
could I talk from? I have a strange insider / outsider role as a female white South African. Being
African feels to me more about overlays of urban living and the spread of American values than the
exotic stereotypes of the unknown. I was interested in the metaphor of the underground in the
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the idea of using the shadows to develop strength and strategies
or the shadow as a space of incubation. When I think of the underground I imagine a place for telling
stories and gathering hope like blues women singing in Juke joints.
4. Tell us about your relationship to objects.
I like objects like japanese massage toys. I also love
figurines and soft, textured objects. I have recently become interested in the metaphor of sewers and
hidden subterranean passages. I’m so influenced by Donatello that I can spend hours on thingiverse
thinking about which connector is best for the pvc pipe treehouse I am currently designing.
5. Can you describe a delicious moment in your process?
You’re talking like ninja turtle now. When
the grey cat jumps over itself in the painting and then like all good Ninjas do after kicking butt, I have
to take a break and eat a pizza! Shows nothing goes to waste! Yep, amen bro/sis/kiddy-oh... I also
love the oil painting moment when I’ve just discovered a character and the very next morning I wake
and mix. Mixing is all about taking from the rich and giving back to the poor. It’s an existential Robin
Hood discussion about being-in-the-world... Oh I like all that a lot.