6th March 2024

S04 E02: ‘The Artist Studio’ with Penny Siopis and Nolan Dennis

Art conversations in South Africa

In this episode, we delve into the inner workings of the Artist’s Studio, exploring it as both a physical space and a conceptual framework. Joining us are artists Penny Siopis and Nolan Oswald Dennis, each offering unique insights into their artistic practices.
Penny, based in Cape Town, has been a pivotal figure in the South African art scene since the 1980s. Her diverse body of work, spanning painting, film, photography, and installation, delves into themes of identity and memory through what she terms the ‘poetics of vulnerability.’
Nolan, based from Johannesburg, is dedicated to exploring a ‘black consciousness of space’ in his para-disciplinary practice. With participation in renowned events like the Berlin and Lagos Biennales, he interrogates hidden structural conditions through diagrams, models, and installations.
In this episode, Penny emphasizes the importance of embracing chaos in the studio as a catalyst for creativity, while Nolan reflects on the transformative impact of his return from the US, highlighting the role of community, cultural encounters, and rituals.
Season 4 is made possible by the generous support of the National Arts Council.
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Production for Season 4:
Anthea Pokroy (Project Lead & Host)
Nkgopoleng Moloi (Co-Host)
Niamh Walsh-Vorster (Project Manager)
The Audio Room & This Audio is Visual (Sound Engineers)
Alyx Carolus (Social Media)
Sanele Balintaba (Design)

Biographies

Nolan Oswald Dennis (b. 1988, Zambia) is a para-disciplinary artist from Johannesburg, South Africa. Their practice explores what they call ‘a black consciousness of space’: the material and metaphysical conditions of decolonization.

Dennis’ work questions the politics of space (and time) through a system-specific, rather than site-specific approach. They are concerned with the hidden structures that pre-determine the limits of our social and political imagination. Through a language of diagrams, drawings and models they explore a hidden landscape of systematic and structural conditions that organise our political sub-terrain. This subspace is framed by systems which transverse multiple realms (technical, spiritual, economic, psychological, etc) and therefore Dennis’ work can be seen as an attempt to stitch these, sometimes opposed, sometimes complimentary, systems together. To read technological systems alongside spiritual systems, to combine political fictions with science fiction.

Dennis’ is the 2016 winner of the FNB Arts Prize, and has exhibited in various solo and group shows, including the 9th Berlin Biennale (2016), the Young Congo Biennale (2019), Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), Architekturmuseum der TU München, Palais de Tokyo (Paris) and ARoS Aarhus (Denmark). They were the 2020 artist in residence at NTUCCA (Singapore) and the 2021 artist in residence at the Delfina Foundation (London).

Dennis’ work featured at the Liverpool Biennale with their installation, ‘no conciliation is possible (working diagram)’ in 2023, as well as Kunsthalle Bern and Van Abbe Museum. Dennis also participated in the 12th edition of the Seoul Media City Biennale as well as the ‘back wall project’ at the Kunsthalle Basel.

Siopis was born in 1953 in Vryburg, South Africa, and lives in Cape Town. She has an MFA and an Honorary Doctorate from Rhodes University, and is currently an Honorary Professor at Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town. Her work since the early 1980s has encompassed painting, film/video, photography and installation. All of her explorations, whether with body politics, memory, migration, or the relations between the human and non-human, are characterised by her interest in what she calls the ‘poetics of vulnerability’ – embodied in the dynamic play between materiality and reference, chance and contingency, form and formlessness, personal and collective history.

Solo exhibitions include 1997 Ongoing, Michaelis Galleries, UCT (2023); Moving Stories and Travelling Rhythms: Penny Siopis and the many journeys of Skokiaan, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Bulawayo (2019); ‘This is a True Story’: Six Films (1997-2017), a survey of Siopis’ film works, Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town (2018); Penny Siopis: Films, Erg Gallery, Brussels (2016); Incarnations, ICA Indian Ocean, Mauritius (2016); Time and Again: A Retrospective Exhibition, South African National Gallery, Cape Town (2014), and Wits Art Museum, Johannesburg (2015); Red: The iconography of colour in the work of Penny Siopis, KZNSA Gallery, Durban (2009), and Three Essays on Shame, Freud Museum, London (2005). Siopis has held eight solo exhibitions at Stevenson in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Amsterdam (2007-2020), as well as For Dear Life at Tiwani Contemporary, London, in 2022.Notable group shows include Enduring Circumstances, Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck University of London, UK (2022);  Shifting Dialogues: Photography from The Walther Collection, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf (2022); Plural Possibilities and the Female Body, Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington (2021); Witness: Afro Perspectives from the Jorge M. Pérez Collection, El Espacio 23, Miami (2020); Global(e) Resistance, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (2020); Blinde Winkel / Blind Corner, Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz eV, Germany (2020); Indian Ocean Current: Six Artistic Narratives, McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College, USA (2020); I Am … Contemporary Women Artists of Africa at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington DC, USA (2019); Hacer Noche (Crossing Night), Cultural Centre of Oaxaca, Mexico (2018); The World’s Game: Fútbol and Contemporary Art, Pérez Art Museum Miami (2018); The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp, Prospect.4, New Orleans (2017); All Things Being Equal, Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town (2017); South Africa: The art of a nation, British Museum, London (2016); Boundary Objects, Kunsthaus Dresden (2015); After Eden/Après Eden – The Walther Collection, La Maison Rouge, Paris (2015); Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2014); Prism: Drawing from 1990-2011, Museum of Contemporary Art, Oslo (2012); Appropriated Landscapes, Walther Collection, Neu-Ulm/Burlafingen, Germany (2011); Peekaboo – Current South Africa, Tennis Palace Art Museum, Helsinki (2010); Black Womanhood: Images, Icons and Ideologies of the African Body, Hood Museum, New Hampshire; Davis Museum, Wellesley, Massachusetts, and San Diego Museum of Art, California (2008); and the biennales of Taipei (2016), Venice (1993, South African Pavilion 2013), Sydney (2010), Guangzhou (2008), Johannesburg (1995 and 1997), Gwangju (1997) and Havana (1994 and 1997)

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