Penny Siopis

About the Artist

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.

Penny Siopis is foremost a painter, although she frequently works with video and installations. Siopis’ work is marked by three interests, the physicality of paint, the accumulation of found objects (including video footage), material memory, and the politics of the body. She has also continually engaged with the shifting social and political situations in South Africa.

There is a sense of intimacy and personal closeness of experiences in the narratives of Siopis’ works, however they do bridge over to a wider global social context and how the viewer relates to the fragility of the subject. Siopis has had a longstanding interest in what she coins 'the poetics of vulnerability'. The juxtaposition of associations, history, femininity, as well as the traces and the repositioning of the past into the now through collective memory are what appear as you submerge into the worlds Penny Siopis creates.


The Pinky Pinky Series 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.

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Conceptual Contemporary Art Gallery

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