Twenty-six ways to say ‘I love you’


G is for girls in love. One of the watercolours by Diek Grobler. Photograph courtesy

VALENTINE’S DAY’S COME and gone with all its silly platitudes, earnest imperatives and underlying marketing ploys. But there’s a delightful little mad exhibition which is as much a foray on the love of another as it is about a maverick sense of what ifs. Love Letters by Diek Grobler is a body of work in mostly watercolour that plays with units – be they small portraits or letters of the alphabet — it’s the kind of exhibition that makes you want to look and laugh and love, without conceptual heaviness or a laboured sense of self.

Every letter of the alphabet has been extrapolated on with the bodies of lovers. They kiss over the arch of an ‘A’, or cuddle across the confines of a ‘C’. They’re men loving women, women loving women, men loving men, people loving cats, the whole range of possibilities of what love may mean. Effectively, a project of this nature is not that different from the delightful 2006 composite film initiative called Paris Je T’aime. Bringing together the creative ideas of eighteen directors, each telling a story of their own about love in Paris, it’s a medium with flings gravity to the wind and renders anything possible.

Similarly, Grobler’s lovely body of work which is presented as a composite digital print as well as the individual original watercolours is sweet on the eye and will leave you with a smile in your step. You may want to own your favourite letter of the alphabet – or your favourite concatenation of lovers at play. Either way, the work skirts more toward the drawings accompanying Edward Lear’s nonsense poetry than those of Anton Kannemeyer’s erotic alphabet, for instance. They’re grabby and fun and sexy without nudity or explicitness.

The collection of quick and loving portraits of a range of people in a range of mediums is the culmination of this small show. It is displayed in a clean and direct way that makes you want to give time to each face represented here, and it is as much about looking at another and loving them, as the alphabet itself is.

Naughty but poetic, with a touch of sugar and lots of love-related uncertainty, this is a joy of an exhibition.

  • Love Letters, an exhibition of works by Diek Grobler, is in Gallery Chaton, at the Pretoria Association of Arts in Bailey’s Muckleneuk in Pretoria, March 6. Call 012 346 3100.

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