sweet and sour

Lady Skollie discusses oxymoronic art, her next show and bright sparks in the dark

Lady Skollie, Daddy I’m a snoek, 2021

“I want to do pop art cave drawings. That’s me,” says Laura Windvogel, an artist and activist who understands and expresses, better than most, how to sit with life’s darkness, draw beauty from it, and coexist with both. In her work, made and shown under the moniker Lady Skollie, that coexistence is as unsettling as it is compelling.

Windvogel’s art has been a long-form study of life’s tensions since 2014, first informed by strong, intentional parents and the lifetime of injustice – witnessed and experienced – that they prepared her and her sister for. Both artists and activists (her sister Kim is a talented opera singer and musician), they competed creatively on platforms like the Kaapse Afrikaanse Eisteddfod. “Looking back I realise that yes, we were competing within an art realm, but it was very much also making us understand that within those spaces we are not represented… Everybody says now because of Zozibini, ‘take up space,’ but I grew up like that.”

Lady Skollie, Daddy I’m a snoek, 2021

She definitely took up space, bursting onto the art scene with works about the dynamics of gender, power and sex in South Africa. The Lust Politics show is as poignant today as it was at its debut, with its unforgettable, bright, happy fruitscapes of the tender, transient, easily bruised freedoms available to women in South Africa. “Those works were some of my favourite that I ever did. They were also quite happy, they weren’t so dark. My work became quite dark progressively.”

By 2019’s Good & Evil, the darkness had boiled to the surface. The show featured the Papsak Propaganda collection, a glaring exposition of the dop system of paying farm workers in alcohol which was only outlawed in 2004. “It touched the brown community in a way that I don’t think we’ll ever actually know the magnitude of how bad it pulled us back – addiction, tik, all of those things really f*cked up my community. Good & Evil was about showing all the grey areas that South Africa’s based on, because it’s definitely not all black and white.”

Lady Skollie, Burning Bush: Shield Your Eyes, The Truth Is Ugly And Bright, 2020

She’s right: for all of us, but especially for people who bear marginalised identities, living is tension.  “I think because I’m someone who is a so-called ‘coloured,’ it’s kind of easy to see some of these tensions from the outside… the coloured existence, whatever that means, the brown existence; in South Africa, it’s already a thing that’s on the periphery anyway. All of our struggle heroes, like Ashley Kriel, people don’t even know about them.”

Lady Skollie, Bottle feeding : Like the classic image of the champagne flute tower, pouring into the top, trickling to the bottom, 2018

Far from static, life’s tensions evolve, and no factor has transformed Laura’s coexistence with them like money has. “I think with me, from 2014 to now, the thing that’s made me see the tension differently is definitely my own socio-economic standing, and how that’s changed, and how I’m still being taken for a p*es! I can design a coin, I can do all the exhibitions, and still I’m feeling… always disrespected, but I think that’s also a big part of what informs my work and my practice. Being underestimated.”

Lady Skollie, We have come to take you home (A Diana Ferrus tribute), 2018

ABOVE  Lady Skollie, We have come to take you home (A Diana Ferrus tribute), 2018

LEFT Lady Skollie, Bottle feeding : Like the classic image of the champagne flute tower, pouring into the top, trickling to the bottom, 2018

She’s the first to point out that artists have always painted the pain of the human experience, but Lady Skollie’s signature is a venus fly trap: she gives familiar fractures such vivid character that we are drawn in, to stop passively experiencing them and start actively confronting them. “We’re all going through therapy. That’s what I believe… I think it’s us all coming to terms with it around the same time, which happens often in art. It’s a zeitgeist. That’s what we’re all looking to resolve, the horror of what’s been happening, of what has happened and what is continuously happening. I’m enjoying seeing other people’s interpretations of similar stuff, but I think I want to feel a bit lighter. And I want to consider the future, and what the future can hold for people, instead of constantly rehashing the past.”

The study of tension continues; her next show will make use of mirrors – broken, warped and real, – to explore trickery in self-reflection. “A scrying mirror is like a shiny surface you can tell the future by… like a witch’s mirror, things can come through it from the past or the future. A lot of my work with the show is really just based on that, [on] reflections of yourself, how you see yourself.” When I imply that forward looking hope could replace the past’s pain at the centre of her art, Laura simply smiles and says, “Don’t be silly, it’s still gonna be dark.”

Lady Skollie, VOC: Impending doom approaching, 2020

Lady Skollie, Mooi Hakskeen, 2019

ABOVE  Lady Skollie, Mooi Hakskeen, 2019

LEFT Lady Skollie, VOC: Impending doom approaching, 2020