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Robyn Penn


CLOUD II (2013)

Type of book work: Unique / sculptural book-object (one-of-a-kind)
Dimensions: 210 x 135
Media: Gouache on black moleskine paper

Artist's / designer's statements

A single highveld cumulonimbus cloud painted in white gouache on each page of a 15 page black accordion moleskine book.

Preoccupied with the crisis of climate change, Penn's work sees the image of the cloud act as a reoccurring reference to climate change debates as well as a symbol for an uncertainty and unease that is both global and personal. Influenced by Romanticism, her meditative renderings of the cloud across media also explore the opposing feelings of intense anxiety and acute wonder that characterise the Sublime.

Something interesting happens to our experience of time when we look at the sky or at the ocean. At a glance they are static and unchanging but after an interval they are transformed entirely. It is this interval that is one of the main foci of Penn's work that she explores through repainting the same cloud in similar as well as different scales and techniques. But it is also a period that is elusive and resists pinning down. Through re-painting and repetition, the interval in Penn's work starts to describe the kind of minute and slow changes in nature that hold us in rapt astonishment when speeded up in a time lapse sequence. Such a focus on these tiny increments of transformation can be seen as a rejection of the narrative of the transformation (this changes into that) in favour of the process of alteration itself. In our own every day experience of time, cloud and sea change slowly but instead of speeding up time to make the changes clearer as in a time lapse movie, Penn calls a halt and situates herself in the space between transformations. In this liminal space the addition of only slightly differing images has the opposite effect and works to expand and slow down time.

To paint an echo, to freeze the seas and to slow the clouds, Penn's work can equally be seen as an attempt to hold back chaos and entropy as the careful study and immersion in the natural processes of transformation and dissolution.



1991 South African National Senior Certifcate, The National School of Art Ballet Drama and Music, Braamfontein, South Africa
1998 BAFA (Honours), University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
2007-2009 BA (PSYCH), for non-degree purposes, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Select Awards

2012 Ampersand Fellowship, New York
2001 & 2005 Finalist, Absa L'Atelier Competition
2001/02 & 2003 Finalist, Sasol New Signatures Competition
1998 Bickerton - Widdowson Trust Memorial scholarship, New Zealand.

Select Exhibitions

2017 Paradise Lost, Barnard Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
2016 Cloud of Unknowing
David Krut Projects Jan Smuts, Johannesburg, South Africa
2016 Air: Inspiration - Expiration, The Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
2015 Cumulus, David Krut Projects Jan Smuts, Johannesburg, South Africa
2014 Postcard Show, Art First Projects, London, United Kingdom


Dick Enthoven Collection, South Africa and London
Drew Barrymore, USA
Warren Siebrits, South Africa
Hector Valezzi, Mexico
William Kentridge, South Africa

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