For the first time, Penny Siopis’ Shame paintings, produced between 2002 and 2005, are brought together in monographic form as a companion to her new series of Notes, collectively titled Grief. These small mixed media paintings (including mirror paint, oil, enamel, glue, watercolour, paper varnish and found objects) are ‘intimate imaginings of childhood sexuality and dread’. In her introductory text, Siopis describes their genesis:
I can’t remember when I first started thinking about shame as fertile ground for empathy. But I do know when I first put thoughts to paper. It was 2000 in Amsterdam, where I was working on an exhibition about South African family history. One day I went to see Long Night’s Journey into Day. A documentary about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, it told the shameful story of families torn apart under apartheid. On the way back to my room I went into a shop that made rubber stamps, wrote down ‘shame’, and asked the assistant to craft my script. My first impulse was to stamp shame all over my naked body, in glow-in-the-dark ink, and film myself with the lights out. Shame, that all-embracing psycho-sexual, psycho-social thing!
Back in South Africa, in the children’s section of the craft shop, I found readymade rubber stamps, hard curlicues of sentimental sayings: ‘I’m sorry’, ‘Get well soon’, ‘Hug me’, ‘Hush little baby’, ‘Forgive as you hope to be forgiven’ … I also discovered paint for decorating mirrors, little plastic scars, eyes of baby dolls, stuff for kids’ scrapbooks. I thought how so much childhood hurt, real or imagined, grows with us, over and over again, as shame.
The book is available as a single monograph, or in a limited edition linen slipcase together with Grief.
Published by Stevenson | 2016
Hardcover, 164 pages | ISBN 978-0-620-71799-1 | Price: R1 000