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Artist Narratives: Penny Slinger - I SPEAK WHAT I SEE

Mouth and nose - the mouth contains an eye looking towards the viewer
I Speak What I See, 1973. © Penny Slinger. All Rights Reserved, DACS/Artimage 2022

Penny Slinger uses a variety of media including photography, film, paint and photo-montage to explore the human journey through life and time. Perhaps best known for her surrealist interpretations of the female, Slinger uses her own experiences to look at connections between eroticism, mysticism, feminism and art. 

DACS selected Slinger’s I Speak What I See, from her Mouthpieces series to lead our Artists Narratives series. Here Penny shares the story behind her seminal series. Created in the early 70s, the series still profoundly resonates today.

Mouthpieces was created as a facet of a body of work exhibited at Angela Flowers Gallery, London in 1973. The exhibition was entitled Opening and dealt with themes of female embodiment, food and eroticism. The oral aspect was a very strong feature, not only in its consuming role, but as an organ associated with pleasure. I also wanted to show how women have had no voice and to present these Mouthpieces to address that situation.

Mouthpieces is made up of both photo collage, and also wax life casts. In both the three-dimensional and two-dimensional renditions, I sought to associate the mouths (my mouth) with things that would disrupt and disturb the status quo/as to how this organ is generally perceived, especially in the media. I wanted my mouths to scream out, in the visual language I created, demanding the kind of attention they had been deprived of. I wanted them to have my voice, woman's voice, instead of just being presented as objects of allure and desire.

This series fits in with my wider practice which, since the 1960s, has used the tools of Surrealism to unveil the psyche of the feminine. I have often used myself, presenting myself as my own muse in counterpoint to the tradition of a woman being shown through the eyes of a male artist.

I have always enjoyed the space that exists between words and images, that fertile ground where the two forms support each other, not to explain, but to amplify. Not to define, but to question. Not to provide reason, but to confound it. The titles of the works are an intrinsic part of the message encoded in my art and the puns that exist, both visually and verbally, are designed to enhance the riddle presented, the double entendre.

Collage has often been my medium of choice as it allows the artist to take pieces of the perceived world and re-arrange them to establish another reality, constructed to at once undermine mundane perception and re-create it from the inside out. Collage is a revolutionary art medium, offering a venue for the free and spontaneous flow of imagination.

Although the works were created in the early 1970s, I like to think that they both speak to the times and address timeless issues. Therefore their validity does not diminish, but stays fresh and relevant. As I look at the art being made today, especially by our younger women, I see the motifs which I was introducing decades ago having come into prominence.

The position I took from the 1960s, in being my own muse and to the use of my own body and its parts in my artistic expression, is coming center stage. Therefore I claim my relevance, not only then, but now and hopefully well into the future in unveiling and liberating the feminine voice.

More about Penny Slinger

You can view more of Penny Slinger’s work including her Mouthpieces series on Artimage. 

Forthcoming exhibitions:

A Woman's Right To Pleasure

BlackBox Presents at Sotheby's Los Angeles

July 5 - August 5, 2022

Censorship Exhibition 

Group show at Unit London 

September 13 until October 2022

The Horror Show!, 

27 October 2022 – 19 February 2023

Embankment Galleries at Somerset House

Pace Library, Chelsea

Solo exhibition 

September 15 - October 22, 2022

Exhibit with Helen Chadwick

The Richard Saltoun Gallery 

3 December to 23 December 2022

Book now for Artist Narratives

Artist Narratives, is an online event series inviting leading female voices from across the arts to reflect on their practice and share their visions for the future. 

In a year where female artists are leading the charge, outstanding creative legacies are being rediscovered and celebrated. Historically marginalised artists are increasingly taking centre stage among major collections and international fairs. But at a time of political and social uncertainty, how do we ensure that a diversity of experience is represented and what does the future hold for next generation of artists?  

Find out more and book