Penny Siopis


5 August - 23 September 2010

Penny Siopis’ latest exhibition, Furies, comprises new paintings and a video installation.

In the first she continues to explore the powers and possibilities of contemporary painting, working the vital energies that shape the relationship between materiality and figuration, surface and sensation, in strongly associative ways. Siopis writes:

I am still excited and driven by the challenge materiality poses for depiction. Much of the sense and sensation in the paintings is embedded in the material itself: what floats, floods, flares, falls and fixes somewhere on the edge of form or formlessness. I am fascinated by the strangeness and openness of this process, which is intensified in the way I use my medium, viscous glue and liquid ink – a sort of choreography of chance and control.

Some images emerge through the vicissitudes of the medium itself. Others are sourced, as before, from Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints and 12th-century scroll paintings (such as ‘hungry ghosts’ and ‘hell’ scrolls), showing scenes of sexuality and states of disaster. “As remote as these references might appear, they resonate powerfully for me with things we might see or imagine in our contemporary moment,” she says.

Siopis’ expressive language develops and refines her interest in line, field, figure and colour in an aesthetic devoted to radical contingency and strangeness. “Line in particular takes on a real energy in these works, where it defines and dissolves form, burns into substance and bleeds across surface, goes its own way …”

The second part of the show presents Siopis’ most recent video work, Obscure White Messenger. Using found 8mm home-movie footage – scenes of domesticity, social ritual and travel - Siopis presents an extraordinary narrative of Demitrios Tsafendas, the man who stabbed South African Prime Minister Hendrick Verwoerd to death in 1966. The footage she uses is anonymous, showing the private escapades of strangers. The text for the work draws heavily on Tsafendas’ own words, culled from interviews, statements, press archives, books and legal documents.

Penny Siopis was born in 1953 in Vryburg, South Africa. She has an MFA from Rhodes University, Grahamstown (1976), and is an Honorary Professor at Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town. She works in painting, photography, film/video and installation. Her work since the 1970s has covered different foci but her interest in what she calls the 'poetics of vulnerability' characterises all her explorations, from her earlier engagements with history, memory and migration to her later concerns with shame, violence and sexuality. She has exhibited widely, both in South Africa and internationally. Recent solo exhibitions include the survey show Red: The iconography of colour in the work of Penny Siopis at the KZNSA Gallery, Durban (2009); Paintings and Lasso at Michael Stevenson, Cape Town (2009 and 2007); and Three Essays on Shame at the Freud Museum, London (2005). Her work is currently included on the 17th Biennale of Sydney.

The exhibition will open on Thursday 5 August 6-8pm. The gallery is open from Tuesday to Friday, 10.30am to 5.30pm, and Saturday from 9.30am to 3pm.

Penny Siopis will be giving a walkabout of her exhibition on Saturday 28 August at 11am. Entrance is free. All are welcome.