Lize Krüger - visual artist raising awareness about mental health, grief and injustice
Lize, you were born and raised in South Africa, where you also completed your BA in Fine Art. You moved to the UK in 2014. Could you please tell us all about your journey into the art world (brief bio/history/backstory)?
I worked from my studio when I still lived in South Africa. It was a privilege to be able to work from home while I raised my three children. Working on my exhibitions and teaching art classes in my studio/gallery was ideal for continuing my career. However, life happens, and I needed to reinvent myself numerous times during the 22 years following that seemingly idyllic situation. From 2008 till 2018, my career came to a standstill. My only son passed away in 2008, and it took every ounce of energy to take one step in front of another. I battled delipidating depression and anxiety during the first ten years after my son's passing.
Your work concentrates on raising awareness about mental health, grief, injustice. You have taught art classes for under 18 rape victims and quadriplegic patients. You are giving back to the community so much. Can you tell us about your motivation behind this incredible work?
After my divorce from my children's father, I became involved with other people in difficult circumstances. It was an incredible time of growing and learning that I have experienced through my involvement with these brave people. I learned a lot more from them than they did from me.
As I mentioned before, knowing what depression looks like and losing my son to depression is a natural outflow that drives my need to address mental health issues and being a self-appointed advocate for children's causes.
You have a section on your website that explains the symbolism you use in your work. What made you interested in symbolism?
It always amazes me how interconnected we are with our counterparts in the animal and insect world. We always found comparative symbols to address or illustrate specific psychological themes from older cultures and different religions.
For instance, Crows or Ravens: It's interesting that in some mythologies, ravens and crows are associated with good things (such as luck or life), whereas in some others, they stand exactly for the opposite, for the bad and death. Ravens are "Keeper of Secrets "and messengers between heaven and earth, the dead and the living, and man and gods. The raven stands for many things such as magic, (self-) knowledge, healing and rebirth (the list goes quite on). Ravens have a different meaning depending on how they appear, e.g. if they are visiting you while you are awake or entering your dreams. Some people are misled by the idea that raven's stand for death, but in spirituality, ravens visit you when something positive or negative is about to transform your life. The raven is the spirit animal that guides you through the ambiguity and supports the transformation. The connection between a raven and death probably dates back to when ravens attended battlefields, and people started to believe that the appearance of those birds indicates that the end is near.
Even if it is sometimes my personal meanings that I attach to something, working with symbolism helped me develop a new visual language after a very long time of silence. The problem with being away from the art scene for such a long time is that one start to lose confidence in your abilities, so it was important to create relevant metaphors to know that it relates to my specific message.
You've exhibited your work both nationally and internationally. What was the most exciting thing that happened in your art career?
While I felt as if I was still drowning in my struggle, Alex Smit from The Lost Gardens Of Heligan in Cornwall, United Kingdom, saw some of my older works. He took a massive chance on me and went to the Directors of The Lost Gardens and made a proposal to commission me with The Centenary Celebrations of the end of WW11. I brought homage to the 13 gardeners who worked there and fought for their country. The installation I did is called: 'In Their Name – Don't Come Here To Sleep Or To Slumber.' This fantastic opportunity shook me out of my sleep and slumber.
What or who inspires you the most?
There are so many artists whom I admire and who excites me. However, my inspiration, if you can call it that, comes from a place deep within. I tend to scrape at the bottom of my soul to connect with people in dire circumstances. Injustice causes a fire in my belly, as does any harm to children. My love and admiration for my children and grandchildren motivate me to use my skills to the best of my ability.
What's the message behind your art?
Even though I address heavy subjects in my work, I try to include elements of hope, lyrical aspects and beauty. I don't want to do visual documentation of the daily news. We see enough of that. We still have to cling to hope and something magical to make us want to survive all the atrocities of the world. At the same time, I aim to give voice to the voiceless in creating awareness about mental health and social injustice.
What does your art do for you?
It gave me back myself, if that makes any sense. I work until the early morning hours and can't stop myself. I thought for a long time that I will never do anything creative again. Grieving takes every ounce of energy from you. That side of me went into a long hibernation, and I was too scared even to try anything. But I'm back.
What are your dreams, plans and goals?
My goal is always to keep on doing what I'm doing. To be creative in any way possible. To nurture that, regardless of fame or monetary success or failure. To make a difference, however big or small, it may be. My dreams are focused on my family. I wish for my daughters and granddaughters to have a stable, loving future.
What is your advice to fellow art mums?
Make time for your art practice. Somehow you will find a way to juggle motherhood and your art career. And don't be precious and scared about creating. Don't overthink what you do. Just do it. If you enjoy what you do, all the other things will seem less challenging too.