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Penny Siopis: Restless Republic

Penny Siopis
Penny Siopis, Ground Swell (in situ), 2017, glue and ink, dimensions variable

STEVENSON Cape Town is pleased to present Restless Republic by Penny Siopis.

Siopis’ interest in materiality and contingency, form and formlessness in painting is longstanding. Over the last decade, she has intensified this interest through experiments with glue and ink, creating a fluid process in which the medium is an active agent in the making of the work. Siopis writes: “Experimenting with unorthodox materials in painting generates new ideas. More than that, it offers an opportunity to open one’s self to the ‘life’ of non-human matter and to find in this openness an intimate model for relationality in the bigger political picture of the self, of the social body, of ecology; a model that is full of risk and uncertainty.” She starts with the relationship between the horizontal and the vertical, first creating the conditions for something to happen by placing the stretched canvas on the floor and pouring glue and ink onto its surface. Siopis continues: “The glue is vibrant; it reacts chemically with the ink, responds to the pull of gravity, and is animated by exposure to the air. Opaque at first, the glue becomes transparent as it dries. At this moment animation is suspended, and form is fixed into a potential image. Looking down onto the surface invites viewing that is intimate, immersive and tactile. Then I lean the canvas against the wall and move it around, this side up, then that side up, then again … Vertical viewing has a distancing effect that opens perception for outside eyes. Everyone sees according to her own template, yet nothing is settled within the bounds of the picture, or in relation to other pictures or objects in its orbit.”

The exhibition brings found objects into play with the paintings, the combination producing associative networks between them and across the gallery, simultaneously referencing art, society and politics. The title Restless Republic alludes to both a nation state and a state of being, of flux and volatility, emergence and explosiveness. Here Siopis dissolves distinctions between process and image, between the act of making and re-making, and the critical distance adopted in the act of viewing. Process speaks again of the ‘life’ of the medium; chance is central, control is a myth, and authorship belongs to the viewer, medium and maker. Siopis writes: “Giving over to the fluid process with all its vicissitudes and visceralities brings forth sensations and images that press against my consciousness. Everything happens in the moment; the spills of the moving matter ensnare the events of the day. Older gestalts join the fray in my mind’s eye – Plato’s Republic, clashing orders in the French Revolution, Hobbes’ Leviathan … Physical objects fall in and out of the painted world. What force pulls here, pushes there? The republic is a particular public in a world of flux.”

Siopis’ exhibition runs alongside You Can’t Keep A Good Woman Down by Jody Brand and Go Away Mitchell by Mitchell Gilbert MessinaThe exhibition takes place concurrent to Siopis’ residency at the Maitland Institute, Open Form/Open Studio, where the public is invited to engage in the evolution of Siopis’ glue and ink paintings as she works in situ, and which includes a programme of talks. Follow her on


Penny Siopis lives in Cape Town where she is Honorary Professor at the Michaelis School of Art. She works in painting, film/video and installation. Solo exhibitions include Penny Siopis: Films at the ERG Gallery, Brussels; Incarnations at the ICA Indian Ocean, Mauritius (2016), Time and Again at the South African National Gallery, Cape Town (2014) and Wits Art Museum, Johannesburg (2015) and Obscure White Messenger, Brandts Museum, Odense, Denmark (2014). Recent group shows include South Africa: The Art of a Nation at the British Museum; Gestures and Archives of the Present, Genealogies of the Future, the Taipei Biennale (2016); Boundary Objects at the Kunsthaus, Dresden (2015); After Eden/Après Eden at La Maison Rouge, Paris (2015); and Public Intimacy at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2014). Notable biennales include Venice (South African Pavilion, 2013 and 1993), Sydney (2010), Johannesburg (1995 and 1997), Gwangju (1997) and Havana (1994 and 1997).

The exhibition opens on Thursday 8 June until 15 July, 18:00 – 20:00

Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 9:00 to 17:00, and Saturday 10:00 to 13:00.

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