23 July - 29 August 2015

Penny Siopis


STEVENSON is pleased to present Penny Siopis' solo exhibition, Still and Moving, her first following her critically acclaimed retrospective exhibition Time and Again.

This exhibition continues Siopis' longstanding interest in what she calls 'the poetics of vulnerability' and extends her particular use of chance-driven processes to generate images and surfaces that prompt associations. In Still and Moving the trigger for those associations is grief, both individual and collective.

As the artist says:

Grief has no face. It is life that exceeds our grasp. Yet we search the world for images that look like what we feel. What we find often appear overused, stories over-told. But they touch us because of the state we are in. They give us a script to fill, one that might connect us to others in the world. Grief is relational. Some say it is a gift.

One of the images the artist is drawn to is Niobe of Greek mythology, a symbol of grief in western literature and philosophy. Reread from contemporary perspectives Niobe becomes an image of transformation - specifically how her tears of sorrow merge with rock, to become a waterfall of stone.

In the monumental triptych Late and Soon, Siopis marks the grief of the individual alongside the collective body politic, and of experiences shared through the news and its unfolding events. The lower half of this painting consists of a palimpsest of swarming phrases and figures extruded from newspapers over a two and a half year period. Sentences become lines and circles that intersect, some barely readable, others too overlaid, too compressed, to make sense. Above is an almost formless vermillion entity that explodes across the three panels, an energy field in Siopis' trademark experimental mix of ink and glue, seducing the viewer into an immersive experience

Likewise the short film, Lay Bare Beside, takes sorrow and its associated ceremonial processes as the main axis for navigating the terrain of a common humanity. In the film Siopis buries two unidentified human skulls that have been present in her private world for many years, and integrates this with footage from anonymous found 8mm home-movies shot in Africa in the 1960s. Alluding to unresolved histories and subjectivities, the work throws up fundamental questions about the perception of form, in this case what is 'found', and the limitations of a singular comprehension of what is given.

In the Note works on paper, Siopis records her daily thoughts and traces her emotions through the process of making. Elements not intended for inclusion find their way into the work, as in Note 5, where pencil shavings made when sharpening have dropped onto the ink and glue surface, becoming permanently trapped and transformed into bird wings. Some Notes are translations of dreams, condensation of diverse and unrelated images that coalesce into a single form.

Still and Moving is Siopis' fifth solo exhibition at Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg. Her retrospective exhibition Time and Again, spanning 35 years of work and accompanied by a monograph, opened at the South African National Gallery, Cape Town, in 2014 and travelled to the Wits Art Museum, Johannesburg, where it is on view until 19 July 2015. Other solo shows include Obscure White Messenger, Brandts Museum, Odense, Denmark (2014); Red: The iconography of colour in the work of Penny Siopis at the KZNSA Gallery, Durban (2009), and Three Essays on Shame at the Freud Museum, London (2005). She has taken part in the biennales of Venice (South African Pavilion, 1993 and 2013), Sydney (2010), Johannesburg (1995 and 1997), Gwangju (1995) and Havana (1994 and 1997). Recent group exhibitions include The Unfinished Conversation, Beirut Art Centre, Beirut (2015) and Public Intimacy: Art and Social Life in South Africa, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2014); she is included in The Film Will Always Be With You: South African Artists On Screen at Tate Modern, London (July 2015) and Boundary Objects at Kunsthaus Dresden (20 June to 20 September 2015).

Penny Siopis exhibits concurrently with Portia Zvavahera.

Related press: Lwandile Fikeni reviews for City Press, 16 August 2015; Lucinda Jolly reviews for Cape Times, 17 August 2015; Ashraf Jamal reviews for Business Day (30 July 2015)

The gallery is open from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, and Saturday from 10am to 1pm.