Penny Siopis was born in Vryburg, Northern Cape, South Africa. She currently lives and works in Cape Town. She has an MFA (1976) and an Honorary Doctorate (2017) from Rhodes University, Grahamstown. Siopis is currently an Honorary Professor at Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town. She has lectured at the University of the Witwaterstrand and the Natal Technikon in Durban, South Africa, and has had research and teaching associations with the University at Leeds, UK and Umeå University in Sweden. Siopis works in painting, film/video, photography and installation. In the past, her work critically engaged the genres of still life and history painting. Locating her practice within a post-colonial context the artist continues to reflect on the complex intersections of collective and individual history and the construction of memory. Her early interest in the feminist aesthetics has shaped her later explorations of violence, shame, sexuality and, more recently, grief. Conscious use of materiality as a signifier– both throughout her media and in the embodied awareness of her own process – characterises all Siopis’s work, whether in painting, found object installations or film. Concerned with what she calls “poetics of vulnerability” throughout her career, Siopis’s recent works pioneered glue and ink medium; they reflect on how accentuating painting process as human openness to non-human material, can be a model to think through larger power relations. Working with white wood glue and multi-coloured inks, where their flows on her canvases are directed by gravity and the nature of the materials as much as by the artist’s own hand, she opens her process up not just for scrutiny but for deep engagement with the audience and with the political and social ecology of the world around her. Glue and ink works on exhibition are the result of artist’s Open Form/Open Studio residency at the Maitland Institute in Cape Town in 2017.
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