Odette Graskie (b.1993) is an artist living in Johannesburg, South Africa. She works with paper and drawing. Her artworks investigate human interaction and affective connection. Graskie has been a professional artist since 2016 and is currently doing her MA in Visual Arts at the University of Johannesburg. In 2019, she took part in the London Summer Intensive at the Slade School of Art, which featured a group show at Camden Arts Centre. She has also been on artist residencies in Guernsey and Poland. Her recent group exhibitions include THE LIMINAL SPACE and WORKS ON PAPER at Berman Contemporary; An Im/perfect Balance at Ayanda Fine Art in Düsseldorf, Germany; and Making and Interpreting Art, hosted by the South African Research Chair.
About my Work
“Your absence has gone through me. Like thread through a needle. Everything I do is stitched with its color.” – Susan Sontag
My practice is built around intimacy and interaction. I aim to tell stories through the exploration of paper, drawing and the use of thread. My practice is as much an exploration of paper’s sculptural qualities and sewing’s potential to become drawing, as it is about portraiture and the use of line.
While hosting interactive drawing events, The Drawing Sessions, I create temporary connections with the public, who sit for short portrait drawings. These drawings become embodiments of the affective moments between me and my sitters, containing a likeness but also the moment of interaction. I then translate the temporary connection, love, abandonment and awkwardness into three-dimensional paper artworks and installations. These temporary connections become obsessive, emotive retellings.
Creating the three-dimensional pieces involves intensive cutting, tearing and sewing. Paper is then not only a container for drawings. I embrace the sculptural qualities of paper, letting paper occupy a space. These artworks play with light, shadow and movement. I dissect the interactions, reframing and translating the connections made into bodily artworks which attempt to activate the space they inhabit.
I am focused on looking closer, and questioning what happens when we alter the limitations of our everyday interactions. By focussing on the small moments that exist between myself and the sitter, I explore ways that we can foster mutual recognition and connection.
While hosting interactive drawing events, The Drawing Sessions, I created temporary connections with sitters, who sat for 10 minute portrait drawings. These drawings are more than merely portraits of sitters, but become loaded with the affective moments between me and my sitters. The emotional aftermath of the temporary connections made fill the final drawings – three-dimensional paper artworks and installation pieces, wherein I attempt to rework the temporary connection, love, abandonment and awkwardness into emotive, obsessive retellings. In this sense, the content of the artworks are both about the sitters who let me draw them, as well as an emotional outpouring spilled onto the page.
Paper is the medium of storytelling, a mode of connection. The collage of different cut pieces of paper also echoes the ebb and flow of the interactions, with intense obsessive cutting and tearing to analyse and reanalyse the emotional content of the work. Making paper also involves intricate steps, and can become an obsessive and embodied process.
The work focusses on the intimate and the ways in which intimacy can exist between people through minute interactions and mutual recognition. The work is focussed on small moments and looking closer, echoed in Susan Sontag’s words, “Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.”
Photos on this page credited to Marnus Strydom.