Robyn Penn Biography


Robyn Penn (nee Arenstein) was born in South Africa in 1973. She lives and works in Johannesburg as a fine artist. Penn has an honours degree, with distinction, in Fine arts from Canterbury University, New Zealand and also spent one year training in Fine Arts at The University of the Witwatersrand. Penn also read for a BA in Psychology from Wits University, South Africa. In 1998 she was awarded the Bickerton – Widdowson Trust Memorial scholarship. She completed her BAFA in 1998, majoring in painting. Penn relocated from New Zealand to London where she painted and developed drawing classes. She returned to South Africa in 2000.

Penn has assisted prominent South African artists in a curatorial capacity, in commissions and consulting. In the years leading up to 2005 she was a finalist in the ABSA Atelier and Sasol New Signatures Art Competition. In 2009 she had her first solo exhibition at the Brodie/Stevenson Gallery in Johannesburg; and completed her BA in Clinical Psychology. Penn’s work has been exhibited in New Zealand and South Africa and is represented in collections in South Africa, New Zealand and Europe. Currently she works as an independent artist; is the co-owner of STRANGE Blue duck animations, which runs creative enrichment workshops for corporates and children; she teaches art classes privately; and is the mother of two children.

Her work navigates dialectic between spaces that are fractured and the sublime; the image before our eyes and all that it suggests. She describes her work as a product of “the madness of the space [she] works in,” a small home studio in an apartment where she is surrounded by the constant interruptions of domesticity and the streets below. Clouds appear as her subject matter and as metaphor for the distractions she negotiates daily. “They’re clouds which have been added to the landscape,” she explains referencing Muybridge who used photographic techniques to add clouds to the sky of his landscapes. She nurtures a deep irony in the beautiful rendering of perhaps the most horrific moment in human history, the dropping of the atomic bombs that extends into the works titles.

Penn started working on a series of monotypes at the David Krut Workshop (DKW) at Arts on Main (AOM) in August 2011, and this work was featured in her solo exhibition Pretty World at David Krut Projects (DK Projects), AOM at the end of 2011.  This was followed in 2012 by Penn’s solo painting exhibition Exit at DK Projects, Parkwood. In 2013 Penn held her third solo show with DK Projects (Parkwood) with her multi-media exhibition, EchoPenn has also participated in several group exhibitions with DK Projects and continues to collaborate with the DK Workshop and DK Projects.