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Penny Siopis

Updated: Jan 19, 2019

Artist 5 Penny Siopis

Penny Siopis is a South African fine artist who lives in Cape Town. She specializes in painting, video and installation. She challenges and explores painting and creates series which deal with various topics including gender dystopia, colonization, violence towards women, fear and trauma,and South Africa’s history of Apartheid.

The focus of today’s discussion is of the Pinky Pinky Series. This is the visualization of a South African urban legend in which a creature that is part human, part animal, part man, part woman, not white, not black, but an amalgamation of forms, preys on children in school toilets and threatens to rape girls if they wear pink underwear. It is visible to girls but invisible to boys who experience its presence through a slap or a scratch on a cheek. In her personal exploration of Pinky Pinky, her art was inspired by the verbal accounts by school children she interviewed on the topic. The artist manipulates paint and form to simulate skin and flesh. The works exclusively use shades of pink, starting with the category of ‘flesh colour’, based on a problematic and conceited notion, in Siopis’ view, that all flesh is a dirty pink.

Siopis builds up areas of relief and texture – pocking and cutting its surface to the desired effect. Found objects are added to the wet painted surface to bring the creature to life. It is often only through the effects of light that the form can be seen, giving a ghostlike quality to the work.

The series investigates personal and public narratives around fear and trauma in South Africa, giving form to things that seem impossible to speak about directly. These at times playful configurations also serve as sites of felt and imagined traumas in a society where violence committed against women and children is far too common.

I choose to focus on this series today in honor of the suffering we highlight in Women’s Month. Her use of pink - often associated as a innocent childlike colour and how she manipulates it is subtle in its horror. This subtle horror is an apt sense of unease that many women face.


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