In new exhibit Penny Siopis rescues lost histories

Daily Maverick | Adam Yates

Penny Siopis’s exhibit at the Zeitz MOCAA explores some of history’s untold narratives through film, music, and primary sources. Stepping into Penny Siopis’s studio is like stepping into three different semi-finished museum exhibitions at once. Every corner contains a new piece of art. While massive, colourful paint canvases draw attention, they are far from the only works of interest in the spacious room on UCT’s Michaelis School of Fine Arts campus. A multi-levelled bookshelf contains books, of course, but also a series of mini sculptures, figurines, miscellaneous objects and art supplies. “I love these,” Siopis says, gesturing towards the eclectic group of shelf adornments. A ladder stands in front of the bookshelf, presumably to reach the higher-placed objects.

The various art supplies, books, collectibles and artistic works (ranging from the nearly completed to the recently started), speak to what Siopis has managed to accomplish in 30+ years of exhibiting her work professionally: the ability to move seamlessly between media and forms, using the ambiguity of the title “artist” to traverse a multitude of creative landscapes. “Personally, I work much more where the form that the idea comes in is as important as the idea,” explains Siopis. “Say I’m working in oil paint and I’m talking about memory and history, and the oil paint itself changes in time and ages, the oil paint is doing the thing in actuality that I might be interested in as a concept.” Siopis’ paintings, photography, installations and videos have been exhibited throughout South Africa and across the world. She has won numerous awards over her storied career, spent time lecturing at the University of Witwatersrand, and is currently serving as an Honorary Professor in Fine Arts at Michaelis…read more

Image: Penny Siopis stands in front of her a collection of her paintings in her Cape Town studio. Photo by Adam Yates