Artist Siopis continues to inspire

Globally acclaimed South African artist Penny Siopis opened her latest exhibition Time and Again at the Wits Art Museum on Monday. A retrospective view on Siopis’ 30 years of artwork, Siopis remains relevant and inspirational. 

RETROSPECTIVE VIEW: Exhibition goers take a look at one of Siopis' works. Photo: Katleho Sekhotho

RETROSPECTIVE VIEW: Exhibition-goers take a closer look at one of Penny Siopis’ works at the Wits Arts Museum in Braamfontein. Photo: Katleho Sekhotho

“Where’s Penny? Where’s Penny?” asked curator Fiona Rankin-Smith.

“Oh there she is,” says Rankin-Smith. “It’s wonderful to welcome Penny Siopis back to her second home.”

“Penny” is globally-renowned artist Penny Siopsis who on Monday opened a celebration of three decades of her work at an exhibition at the Wits Art Museum (WAM).

The evening was buzzing with many trying to get Siopis’ attention.

I was able to speak to her for just a few moments before she had to dash off. Kind and sweet, it was the first time I was able to put a face to the woman who had been an essential part in my visual arts learning in high school.

I want to dedicate the exhibition to my partner, my husband Colin Richards, who died very tragically and suddenly in 2012

Indeed the exhibition was focused around her many years of artwork, but more importantly her artwork was a commemoration to her late husband Colin Richards.

“I want to dedicate the exhibition to my partner, my husband Colin Richards, who died very tragically and suddenly in 2012, said Siopis. “He’s a very strong presence in the exhibition as he would be, and he’s also a very strong presence in the book that’s been published to coincide with the exhibition.”

Fellow artist Clive van den Berg introduced Siopis with the words, “Penny it gives me such profound happiness to celebrate with you, in loved ones present and absent, the results of 30 years of work.”

I first encountered the mythical idea of pink pinky as a child and then seeing that depicted in Siopis’ Pinky Pinky series of hand printed lithograph’s felt familiar.

As Van den Berg says: “So when we look at Pinky Pinky paintings or the so-called cake paintings, Penny’s method has already created a bridge for our understanding even before we think of their imagery.

”Similarly if we look at the history paintings which were formed by cutting and pasting illustrations from history books , the method, the sharply cut edges, the disjuncture of scale of association and narrative, tells us viscerally what she is doing before we put into words their basic premise.”

During her opening speech Siopis gave a heartfelt recount of the years of artwork that had finally lead her here:

“I also want to say that Clive has a very special meaning in my life, we were best friends when I first started out in Durban, we taught together … That was the time I made Queen Cakes and some of the earlier cake paintings. So to start this exhibition effectively in 1980 with the Queen Cakes and have Clive open the exhibition, and have Fiona here at WAM, putting a whole show together, is very, very special to me.

“So it’s this whole personal angle which is quite different,” she said.

Sipois said the exhibition includes her work up to 2012, when her husband passed away.

“There have been no works on this exhibition since he died. So for me the physical objects in this space mark his presence as much as my memory of him, and those who knew him at Wits would recognize in the exhibition.”

The exhibition ends on the 20th of July 2015.