Tuesday, July 29, 2008

New paintings by Penny Siopis

Penny Siopis, Monument, 2007 (Courtesy: Penny Siopis)

Penny Siopis has always been my favorite painter, and this is not just because of her monumental, iconic paintings of the 1980s that showed her mastery of illusionistic ordering of her pictorial space, as well as a subtly powerful critique of history and its conscription by the Apartheid regime. In the intervening years (which includes a short period of time we shared adjoining studios in London, in 1995), she has made work that spanned photography, installation, and film. But she has always remained, primarily, a painter's painter. And I am not just talking about the kind of painter who simply overwhelms you with her supremely crafted work.

Penny Siopis, Fever, 2007 (Courtesy: Penny Siopis)

None of what I have said quite prepares you for an encounter with the new work she showed at Michael Stevenson last year. I will try discuss these works in some depth later, but I cannot but think that she has painted some of the most hauntingly beautiful pictures I have seen in a very long time. To see how the plenitude of forms in the mid 80s work has given way to these gripping expanses of space in which disturbing dramas involving one or just few figures, you get the sense that this is a painter that has come to full maturity. The pleasure you get savoring the incredibly rich surfaces of the paintings is constantly checked by this sense of "what the heck is happening; what is going to happen" as you are ineluctably drawn into the arid expanses of space, into the bloody drips and stained whites, and into the dark eyes of the ghostly figures trapped in ether, mired in red pools, or sequestered in surgery or medical exam rooms, or loveless beds...

Penny Siopis, Love, 2007 (Courtesy: Penny Siopis)

Oh, I said I will return to these images later, as soon as time permits!

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