“To wake up and to develop compassion for your fellow humans and the planet…”
Paul Zimmerman in conversation with Lize Krüger
Paul Zimmerman: How did you get interested in art?
Lize Krüger: As a child, and being much of a loner, I could spend hours keeping myself busy drawing from my imagination. But then, a favourite aunt of mine, Babs Krüger, a well–known fashion designer in South Africa in the 50s-70s, noticed it and bought me my first big drawing pad and oil pastels. After that, it was always a means of communication to me.
Fortunately, my parents supported my choice of studies, and I went on and finished a BA Fine Arts degree in the eighties.
PZ: You deal with essential issues of loss and child abuse. Why are these subjects so personal for you?
LK: The vulnerability of children in any situation is and was always a matter of concern to me.
I myself, was in a complicated relationship with my children‘s father, and I am constantly contemplating its effect on my children and their development as young children. In addition, I was a 19-year–old first–time mother, and I still get panic attacks just thinking about the risk it was for this poor baby of mine!
I was utterly ignorant and just followed my natural instinct, raising her. When one doesn‘t experience any support or respect from a partner during pregnancies, the chances to be a stable, mature parent is almost zero.
Now that I am a grandmother and have the luxury to look back at myself, I feel compassion for the child I was at that stage. But that doesn‘t take away from how many children are at risk daily. Not every young girl has the loving support of parents and siblings like I had. How do they cope with that? How do they protect their babies against the onslaught of Life?
The little personal experience I had, vanishes into thin air if one compares it to the struggle of many, for example,
African, Afghan and Syrian women.
In 2008 I lost my only son to suicide after a short period of deep depression.
I fought with everything in me to prevent this devastating outcome, but unfortunately,
I could not save him and will always have to carry that knowledge with me. Loss and grief are close companions of mine, and art is a therapeutic way to address emotions that are not always easy to express in words.
PZ: What is your artistic process? How do you create your works?
LK: If something keeps me awake at night, I know it is something that needs a visual image. So I will play with different ideas and images. I will sometimes superimpose pictures and take the accidental occurrences further. I also use news agency pictures as references, for example, a child in a refugee camp, and exhaust the images by creating different milieus as a backdrop for conveying additional messages.
PZ: Do you have any particular goal in mind when your start a new piece?
LK: I usually do, yes. Whatever upsetting topic dominates my mind will drive my passion for addressing it.
I am probably a frustrated activist because I can‘t let it just slip by. The goal will always be to
create sensitivity and awareness about certain aspects of Life.
PZ: How do you know when the work is finished?
LK: At some point, I will feel an amount of satisfaction and decide that a work is now completed. However, after a few days I will have a clearer and more objective view. Then I will rework images and visuals. Sometimes I will have a better outcome, and other times, it would be a fatal decision.
PZ: Has your practice changed over time?
LK: I have a traditional art education and was an oil painter most of my Life. During my studies,
I became aware of the limitations of my two–dimensional medium and started to make more conceptual pieces inside box frames and different see–through layers. As a result, in the early 2000s,
almost all my work consists of more than one layer. However, the costs became an obstacle if it was not a commissioned piece or body of work. So, with the pandemic effect, I turned to an interdisciplinary method of traditional, digital and photographic mediums to achieve the same layered effect.
PZ: Which artists are you most influenced by?
LK: There are so many artists whom I admire and who excites me, for instance, Marlene Dumas and David Hammons.
However, if you can call it that, my inspiration comes from a place of absolute intolerance for injustice. I tend to scrape
at the bottom of my soul and the deepest of my being in order to connect with people in dire circumstances. Injustice causes a fire in my belly, as does any harm to children.
PZ: What message would you like to send to the world?
LK: To wake up and to develop compassion for your fellow humans and the planet.
We are paying an extremely high price for hate, intolerance, arrogance and shortsightedness.
I am also trying, through my art, to de-stigmatize mental health issues and suicide.
I hope to create an awareness that makes it easier to talk about these topics and not shy away from them.
PZ: What are you working on now?
LK: By reaching the ripe and very mature age of sixty, I suddenly feel the need to address my personal history that aligns strongly with other Women‘s struggles.
PZ: How does the pandemic influence your work and sensibility?
LK: The pandemic had a profound effect on me and my career. I put my brushes away after my
sons‘ passing. When the pandemic came and the subsequent lockdowns and masks, it felt as if the
world caught up with me. Now they also wear masks every day, the same as I did metaphorically
for twelve years and they also had to isolate themselves. It gave me a sense of normality and self- confidence that was lacking this past decade in my Life. The creative juices started to flow endlessly!
My audience also became a much more receptive one due to the collective pain that everyone
I hope that we all will use this as a reset in our personal lives and as part of communities and that
our moral compass will become active again.