In a lengthy, analytical essay, Claudette Schreuders and the Autobiography of Complexity, noted Wits University art historian, critic and curator, Rory Bester, observes: 'Each of Claudette Schreuders' six bodies of work to date encapsulates an autobiographical phase in the artist's own life. Her latest body of work, Close, Close (2011), is full of the overwhelming presence of small children'.
It is no surprise then that Schreuders finds substance and meaning in the connection between life and art. 'I enjoy art in which you can see the life where it comes from. Art that is solely about art is not as attractive to me as when there is life outside the work.'
Close, Close is preoccupied with small children, and responds to the single-figure solitariness and isolation of the works in the Long Day (2007) by offering work of two or more figures. The title of the exhibition and the corresponding work is taken from a poem by Elizabeth Bishop, entitled Close Close All Night.
Close, close all night
the lovers keep.
They turn together
in their sleep,
close as two papers
in a book
that read each other
in the dark.
Each knows all
the other knows
learnt by heart
from head to toes.
As a description of a sleeping couple, the poem precisely describes a closeness that is at once comfortingly familiar and stiflingly over-familiar. And it is this contradiction that Schreuders renders in the spooning composition of the title work, Close, Close.
In this series, the 'insider', as both an experience of belonging and the title of one of the works, is marked by the experience of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood. It is reinforced by closely related themes in the other works: a mother holds up a child in Eclipse, a caregiver has a baby on her back in Abba, a mother holding a baby in each arm in Two Hands, and a father standing with a child on his feet in One.
There is little respite from the involving presence of children, but, at the same time, this new stage has created a newfound critical distance from her work. 'When I made The Long Day, the work was all I thought about', recalls Schreuders. 'But, when you have small children, your gaze shifts. It becomes a different kind of enclosed world. This is what occupies me for now, so that is what I'm making work about'.