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Robyn Penn: Sentinels
March 4 @ 8:00 am – March 28 @ 5:00 pm
Robyn Penn: Sentinels
4 – 28 March 2023
Opening: Saturday 4 March, 2 – 4pm
Sentinels, a solo exhibition by artist Robyn Penn, captures the drama, awe, and reverence of the natural world in the midst of a climate breakdown. Situating the romantic treatment of nature firmly in a 21st century context, encaustic and graphite drawings of single clouds float below the lofty gallery ceiling and interact with the light streaming in; these suspended visions are brought down to earth by a series of ink drawings that depict climate protestors being arrested. Titled ‘The Protectors’, a paradox is captured in that the protectors here are not the officials, but rather the perpetrators under arrest.
A new series of oil paintings render clouds in dramatic depth against the deepest night sky, reappropriating the eighteenth century concept of the sublime: the complex emotional response of wonder and terror that is inspired by nature’s greatness and impossible beauty. It is no coincidence that clouds are Penn’s favoured subject matter, given their dual associations with heavenly infinity and conversely, their ability to obscure clear vision. Here the Western aesthetic tradition of imbuing nature with a moral character—whereby the viewer is humbled by the limits of their imagination—takes on a new meaning, one for our times.
Preoccupied with the crisis of climate change, Penn’s work sees the image of the cloud as a recurring reference to climate debates, as well as a symbol for the uncertainty that is both global and personal.
Robyn Penn was born in 1973, in South African and lives in Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand. Penn is an artist whose practice includes drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture and film installations. The foci of her work are of the natural world, the elusive nature of time, the sublime and the threat of the Anthropocene. The artist spent one year training in Fine Arts at the University of the Witswatersrand, Johannesburg before receiving an Honours degree in Fine Arts from Ilam, Canterbury University, New Zealand. She also read for a BA in Psychology at the University of the Witswatersrand. Penn is a fellow of the prestigious Ampersand Trust. Her art has been seen internationally in galleries, in solo and group exhibitions, and art fairs since 1999.
Her first solo exhibition was in Johannesburg in 2009. Penn has collaborated with internationally acclaimed master printmakers Mark Attwood (SA), Jillian Ross (CA), Nathi Ndlandla (SA), Georgina Berens (SA), screen printmaker Wim Legrand (SA) and Risograph printmaker Candice Ježek (SA).