Lisa Brice’s exhibition More Wood for the Fire shows the artist’s most recent body of work, which deals with her ongoing relationship with the island of Trinidad, where she has worked extensively since 1999 in workshops, residencies and group shows. Brice looks at the physical, and psychological landscape of Trinidad, and questions her connection to the island.
The work was conceived and partly produced in Grand Rivière, a small village on the north coast where the artist has recently acquired land with the intention of building a studio. This landscape allows Brice to access ideas around her growing awareness of nature and its impact on local architecture, and becomes a space within which the artist can reconcile her own history with her present position. This is perhaps most evident in the work Studio Jungle, which was inspired by photographs taken in 1968 (the year Brice was born). A photograph of the École des Beaux-Arts by Bruno Barbery had particular relevance for Brice, as it reminded her of Michaelis School of Fine Art in the 1980s, a time in South Africa when art was often used as a tool for political protest. The connection she felt with the image, and its correspondence to her own history, whilst in sharp contrast to her rural studio at that time, reminded her of the proliferation of hand painted signs found in both the urban and rural landscape of Trinidad, used to relay information, whether of a political or celebratory nature. Brice juxtaposes these related yet contrasting realities by incorporating both the landscape and the cityscape of Trinidad into the image. In Jungle Studio the studio has become a jungle, and the posters have become ‘trini posters’ – a prevailing reference throughout the body of work.
Brice also uses the landscape as a way of accessing many of the issues present in her previous work: gender, violence and identity. A few of the figure studies come from a 1968 issue of Playboy magazine, but the figures have been painted in jungle-inspired settings and moods. Colour has been used in a symbolic way; the female figures, for example, are often rendered in pinks and olive greens, which are the colours of the plants used to establish the boundaries between properties in Trinidad. In this way, Brice alludes not only to the complexity of gender relations in Trinidad specifically, but also to the role of women in society in general.
Thus the exhibition straddles her experience of both the socio-political issues surrounding Trinidad and of her own South African history and identity, and presents an intriguing dialogue of this internal debate.
Lisa Brice (b.1968, Cape Town, South Africa) negotiates the precarious terrain of artistic production, as she moves between practices of spontaneous drawing and figure painting. She makes use of unexpected painting and printing techniques on a variety of surfaces, which include canvas and tracing paper. For Brice, the act of tracing often leads her to a repetition of similar motifs or figures in her work, sometimes biographical, and at other times art historical: ‘I am attracted to the idea of repetition,’ Brice remarks, ‘Chasing that high, stories told and retold.’
In 2006 Brice had her first solo exhibition of paintings at Goodman Gallery Johannesburg, titled Night Vision, in which she reflected on the uncertainties of childhood. In 2009, a solo show, More Wood for the Fire, was presented at Goodman Gallery Johannesburg; the exhibition detailed Brice’s relationship with the island of Trinidad. In 2011, Brice’s work was included in the Vitamin P2 publication, Phaidon’s major anthology of international painting. In 2012, Brice presented a solo exhibition titled Throwing the Floor at Goodman Gallery in Cape Town. She has had subsequent shows at Goodman Gallery Johannesburg in 2015 titled Well Worn, and in June 2016 she was included on a show at Camden Art’s Centre in London Making & Unmaking curated by Duro Olowu. Brice had her first solo museum exhibition in the UK at the Tate Britain in 2018, where she exhibited large scale paintings which addressed the longstanding art-historical tradition of the female nude.
The artist lives and works in London, UK.