Robyn Penn
Surface I
Lithograph and chine collé on Zerkall
Image size: 12.4cm x 15.8cm
Edition: 20

R2 800.00 (unframed)

Robyn Penn’s Surface I is part of a series of lithographic prints that deconstruct the surfaces of bodies of water. Created almost a decade ago, the work gives context to more recent explorations of natural phenomena, such as Objects of My Affection III, and shows Penn’s longstanding interest in the representation of the natural sublime. In Surface I the shadows and highlights of a rippled body of water give a sense of a coherent, fluid whole, but also seem to break the surface into a collection of disconnected marks. Pulling between representation and abstraction, Penn’s treatment of this surface alludes to the waterscapes of the impressionists,  which were primarily studies of the behaviour of light and colour.  Penn’s monochromatic rendering reduces this genre to its most elemental, and reminds us that visual abstraction and representation exist on a continuum. 



Robyn Penn is a South African-born artist based in Auckland, Aoteoroa, New Zealand. Through a practice that straddles painting, printmaking and drawing, she explores the relationship between nature and humankind, and experience and knowledge. In recent works, Penn considers the irreversible impact of humans on the planet and contrasts this with our awe when faced with the natural sublime. Her work speaks to the history of painting in the West, and reflects on how the aesthetic conventions of Romanticism and Modernism translate in postcolonial contexts. In the words of South African critic Ashraf Jamal, "Penn's work invites an audience to inhabit a world, which, in truth, is fast becoming uninhabitable. Preoccupied with the crisis of climate change, her works aren’t designed to assuage our fears, but in their muted, quiet, yet unerringly uncertain manner, ask us to embrace unsettlement, to take that unsettlement to heart."

Penn's work has been shown in group and solo exhibitions in South Africa and abroad, and is represented in several private and institutional collections around the world, including those of the Ampersand Foundation and the Smithsonian Museum, Washington D.C. She has been a recipient of the Ampersand Fellowship, (New York, 2014) and the Bickerton – Widdowson Trust Memorial Scholarship (New Zealand, 1998), and was a finalist in the Waikato Museum National Contemporary Art Award (New Zealand) in 2019.