When I first laid eyes on Penelope's work I honestly had no idea what I was in-store for! At first I thought she was a digital artist, upon interviewing her I can tell you she is so much more! There are many things I've come to admire about her work but what stands out the most is her intelligence; she is the mathematician of art! Algorithms, parabolic curves and pigment ink are tools used to convey her messages on social issues. Penelope doesn't take her artistic duties with a pinch of salt, she goes full throttle, it is her calling, and she answers this call with nothing but pure sophistication and elegance.
"A contemporary is one who can see the obscurity and temporality of their time, and as a contemporary being it is incumbent on me to depict our civilisation and the many relationships within it. Rather than being a label of periodisation, the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben argues it is an ahistorical concept, an existential marker. True contemporaries are able to perceive the light and darkness within their time in order to re-contextualise all manner of things."
Everything Penelope does within her art is done deliberately to convey her message; nothing is by chance or because it looks pretty; from her choice of colour, to the strokes she makes, it all has a meaning. The purpose of her work is to help us understand the tension and the angst of human fallibility - our tendency to make mistakes - our urge for order and control. What I found the most interesting about her message, is that her technique requires order and control.
How did you discover the world of art?
The first memory I have of art is as a child sitting at the kitchen table in my family home painting dinosaurs, thankfully my skills have developed since then! My family always helped me learn new techniques by giving me art related gifts, and their continued support encouraged me to find ways of communicating the perceptions I had of the world around me.
How long have you been an artist?
In my heart I have always been an artist. But it was only when I realised I had the power to become who I truly wanted to be that I allowed myself to follow my dreams and actively learn how to be an artist.
What was the deciding factor on choosing to embark in a career in art?
I have always had a strong desire to create. To be an artist is to be a visionary, you can contextualise all manner of space and time. The world can be such a hectic place, and art is my drug of choice to help make sense of everything around me. When I’m creating art I feel everything else disappear, I go into a very tranquil and meditative state.
What lead to the discovery of your style?
I began developing my current style of drawing whilst at university studying Fine Art. I understood the basic principles of geometry and parabolic curves from school; and started to wonder how I could use this knowledge to create the strange shapes I was seeing in my mind, and communicate what I was thinking. When you are drawing a constant series of straight lines that are the only elements on the page, you really need to focus. There are so many factors at play that need to be in perfect harmony to truly manifest these forms, so it was pretty slow going in the beginning. Not to mention the commitment you make when putting pen to paper, it’s much less forgiving than painting or working digitally because you can’t simply paint over or undo any mistake you make.
What interested you in combining maths with art?
Growing up I never thought I was much of a mathematician. I was always in the bottom set at school and struggled with dyslexia which meant I had to work twice as hard as everyone else just to keep up. But I have always been a perfectionist, and it’s comforting that in maths there’s a finite set of rules which if you follow deliver a specific outcome. I always enjoyed creating art freely, but I suppose in combining the two there was an extra challenge that I couldn’t resist. I couldn’t settle for merely creating something that vaguely represented something else. I wanted to develop a new way of combining opposing ideologies e.g. black and white, lines and curves; something which appears digital but is totally organic. I suppose I had such intricate ideas and perceptions that I felt could only be translated through this style of representation.
What artist if there is one influenced your style?
M.C. Esher is the first artist which springs to mind. My father had the Waterfall hanging up in one of our bathrooms and it’s infinite intricacies always enraptured me. Surrealist automatism and Bridget Riley are two other underlying influences within my practice.
"To be an artist is to be a visionary."
Geometry and parabolic curves compliment - the human urge to impose order and control - in a sense you're the order and control in your work, did you feel those two styles were the best way to convey your message?
Geometry practically contextualises shape, size, and the properties of space; and the understanding of it has been the basis to the material world around us. It’s many factions and applications provides the concepts required to create and dissect form. Since humankind has developed the ability to impose order and control throughout existence I merely continue these interpretations of elements and space. Parabolic curves are my way of creating the illusion of three dimensional space in a two dimensional plane. We continuously project ourselves outwards and inwards as we grow and absorb information and influences around us, so to me there isn’t a more apt way to convey the messages of all that makes up our universe.
Why do you chose to only work with black pigment ink?
Black and white are the two most simplistic portrayals of polar opposites, and the very nature of polarity has always fascinated me. In coupling the two you combine all light and the total absence of light, it’s also not only physically the easiest to see but philosophically resonates a multitude of ideologies and concepts. I have recently begun introducing gold as a representation of enlightenment, as it is one of the most sought after and precious elements in our material world.
Do you pre-plan your designs or go with the flow?
The designs are rarely pre-planned, I can never totally go with the flow because I have to adhere to the algorithm which allows the artworks to be created. Although I envisage a piece they evolve naturally and tend to take on a life of their own.
We have more posts on Penelope's work, go and read the meaning behind the pieces featured in this article! And don't forget to watch her time-lapse videos!!!!!!!