Vibrant Sexual Works from Lady Skollie at Tyburn Gallery

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It’s a small exhibition of works from the young South African artist, Lady Skollie, which marks her UK debut, but, nevertheless, it’s an impressive collection, brimming with a potent raw sexuality and gender politics, that mark this artist out as one to watch.

Lady Skollie was born in Cape Town and currently lives and works in Johannesburg. Interestingly, the Gallery has described her works, created using ink, watercolour and crayon, as ‘playful.’ Yet I felt this undersells them. These are powerful, primal works with a dangerously menacing, if latent, anger that rests very close to the surface.

Of course, you can’t overlook the vibrant palette – it attracts and seduces the viewer – but step a little close and you will see recurrent motifs of papayas as vulvas and bananas as penises. In some paintings, the women are saturated with desire – almost as if they are in heat. In another, a thick chain is tight around a woman’s neck. These works are in conflict – desire and anger, lust and fear.

“I am angry about a lot of things,” Lady Skollie explains, in the accompanying literature. “Mostly pertaining to existing on this planet as a woman.”

In addition to the paintings, Lady Skollie also wrote an essay for the show. ‘A South African love story’ as it is titled. But with its themes of FGM and rape, the conflict between lust for men and fear of them that Lady Skollie examines is indicative of what is being examined in the visual works also.

And how can you resist works that are not only intoxicating but come with such fantastic titles as Kind of, sort of united we stand: the ups and downs of competitive sisterhood, and Passion gap: a portrait of the artist wrestling with her daddy issues; reaching misguidedly for the validation of men?

This is a woman with her finger on the political and cultural pulse and an artist with all the talent and potential to communicate these themes powerfully.

Tyburn Gallery, St. Christopher’s Place, London, to March 4, 2017

Admission free

All images: installation photos from Lewis Ronald, courtesy the artist and Tyburn Gallery

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