Visual artist and podcaster Laura Windvogel recently returned to South Africa from London where she exhibited her new body of work Lust Politics. The show went viral, as international media reported on it and as visitors to the Tyburn Gallery – where Laura is now signed – shared photos from the opening night of white walls, filled with robustly coloured and deeply textured images of fruit, the female form and creatures with dangly, stretched-out limbs. As her work continues to explore feminism, race, eroticism and more, Lady Skollie gives us feedback on her solo show and delves into the making of Lust Politics.
Congrats on the show! How did it go?
Better than I could have ever imagined. It was hard to predict what to expect but Tyburn Gallery came to the party and the installation went off without a hitch; opening night welcomed a wonderful and diverse crowd on a frosty night. Lust Politics is still on exhibition until 4 March, so I’m hoping the rest of the exhibition is as explosive and that many Londoners and beyond get to see the work.
Where and when did you produce Lust Politics, and what were you listening to or reading while creating it?
I produced the show predominantly in my studio in Fordsburg, Johannesburg. The studio is so hot that on most days during Johannesburg’s summer I could only start being productive after 3pm. It was weird not being able to engage with the December vibe like everyone else – no day drinking, no parties. But I knew it would be worth it. And it really was. I listened to a lot of funk, Solange and Kanye.
I read the ridiculously articulated ‘stories’ in porn magazines, did Khoisan research, made large sheets of paper stapled to my studio walls for brain maps. I wrote a lot and often just sat with myself before the studio was cool enough to paint.
Your mural that you painted at your London show, titled Khoisan Kween Mother [below], is interesting. What is it about?
I wanted to place my own identity as a coloured woman – a bushwoman – into the setting of London. So making marks on a wall that would stay behind even after I leave felt Khoisan-like, in a contemporary context.
Your work references women such as Josephine Baker and Sarah Baartman. Can you talk about those references, within Lust Politics and your canon?
I think my references to Sarah and Josephine stem from how the black female form is often so desired, but with a dark edge. Twisted fetishisation that makes the viewer feel weird about their attraction. One of the works that is suspended in plexiglass – Pink Dick – Sometimes I reluctantly reflect back on all the times allowed my pussy to be colonized – is an ode to the duality of finding strength in that fetishisation but then being disgusted with yourself afterwards.
You posted on social media about the politics of being a woman, and made a comparison to Sarah Baartman being in London. As a woman/artist/woman artist/black woman/African artist, how are you feeling about your presence in the world right now and especially showing in London?
Actually my father made that comparison – after I did the Hottentot Skollie show at the Cape Town Art Fair in 2015. I drew many Sarah Baartman comparisons and I think my parents finally caught on to the identity politics I was trying to raise as a coloured woman.
Regarding showing in London, I feel frustrated and elated and imbued with a secret. I feel that both showing in London and selling works in London gives me a thrill. To have well-known directors, artists and actors make appointments to view my work… it makes me feel as if I am on an level that can reach, explain and be understood more as a South African artist.
The banana skirt, Josephine Baker, exoticism, paws, bananas and phallic and yonic symbolisms! Can we talk about the politics of fruit in your art?
No. I don’t think we have to talk about it. I think it’s obvious. The only thing I’d like to talk about is the ripening, the rotting and the consumption of sex (as fruit) can have a shelf life that is implemented in us through the way in which we relate to patriarchy.
You had mentioned being raised in a conservative coloured Afrikaans home. What does your family/parents make of your work now?
My parents weren’t that conservative while growing up; I mean, they allowed their daughters to go and study fine art and music. But I guess any parent seems conservative when their daughter ends up painting pussies for a living. I think my parents are sometimes confused but always proud.
In an interview you said: ‘In South Africa the art world is very Eurocentric, the fine art world: you are either this kind of artist or you are not an artist at all! A lot of galleries used to judge me for being on social media. I just felt it was so weird I had to adhere to these predominantly white rules about what fine art is in an African country.’
In relation to the quote, how do you think African artists like you can feel more at home/comfortable within these fine art spaces in Africa?
By making those spaces work for us and not the other way around.
Are you with a gallery? And would you like to be? Why/why not?
I have delayed signing with a gallery for a long time; having worked within the gallery structure in South Africa before, I already know the ins and outs of how galleries work. I didn’t want to give 50% of what I made to someone who didn’t know how to represent me better than I could represent myself. Many galleries here also referred to me as ‘the popular choice’ – bless them. That’s just a euphemism for: ‘She’s on social media too much and we don’t know if that type of art will appreciate the way we want it to, so we will rather just give her the opportunity to fill up parties for us but not commit’.
But, I’ve now signed with the Tyburn Gallery in London, after three years of being independent. It’s important to choose an organisation that can open doors you can’t kick down yourself. Because believe me kicking doors down by yourself for three years can get tiring.
Will Lust Politics be travelling?
NO! Lust Politics will sell out.
Lust Politics is on at Tyburn Gallery until 4 March.