Penelope Slinger: Hear What I Say (1971-1977)


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The Independent Culture

The first British-based exhibition for forty years of work by feminist artist Penelope Slinger opens in London this week.

Hear What I Say at the Riflemaker gallery features many early works, including photographic collages and sculptures, from the 1970s.

Slinger’s surreal collages represent elements of femaleness. The artist presents herself as both subject and object.

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Exhibited in London in 1977, her explicit depictions of feminine power and an anarchic approach to life challenged and outraged many of her peers, as well as the critics. The artist left Britain in 1979, vowing never to return.

Initially published in book form under the title An Exorcism, the photo-collage series, seven years in the making, was created in the tradition of the classical ‘photo-romance’, taking its cue from Max Ernst’s Une Semaine de Bonte and La Femme 100 Têtes.

The artist explores the ultimate romance - the death and rebirth of self. The action takes place in a deserted country mansion, the empty rooms of which represent the many chambers of a woman’s being.

Each image is a meditation on a particular state of consciousness.  It represents a place where the lines between the world of dream and reality are undefined, as the subconscious is opened to the light of conscious scrutiny.

The series follows on from Slinger’s first photo-book 50% The Visible Woman (1971) and the showing of her 3D works at the ICA's Young and Fantastic exhibition in 1969, when the artist was just 21-years-old.

Slinger describes her output as a “map of the journey of the Self”. Surrealism allowed her to delve into the subconscious and emerge with archetypal glyphs.

Her many works include The Secret Dakini Oracle (1978), her illustrations for Sexual Secrets: the Alchemy of Ecstasy (1979 & 2000), The Secret Dakini Oracle (1979) & The Path of the Mystic Lover (1993).

Hear What I Say (1971-1977), Riflemaker Gallery, London until 30 October 2012