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Peltz gallery announces two new artwork commissions

Both will be available for online viewing and will explore, separately, gender-based violence and the human relationship with the sea.

This is a photo from Paris Petridis- treading water

Birkbeck’s contemporary art gallery, based in the School of Arts, continues to showcase artistic visionaries through an online platform and on Thursday 25 February will bring two new captivating pieces, both with very distinct reflections of the pandemic and its associated themes.

The two new artwork commissions by artist Penny Siopis and photographer Paris Petridis, will explore gender-based violence during the COVID-19 lockdown and the human relationship with the sea, respectively. The artworks will be viewable online at the Peltz Gallery from Thursday 25 February to Friday 21 May 2021.

Shadow Shame Again (2021) by Penny Siopis

Penny Siopis (South Africa) creates work across various media exploring memory, migration, shame and grief. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many people in South Africa have protested ‘the other pandemic’, referring to the proliferation of gender-based violence under the conditions of lockdown. Material published by UN Women shows that gender-based violence has increased globally during this time.

Penny Siopis’ video artwork responds to this situation by speaking to the visceral emotion of shame. Using footage from her collection of found 8mm home movies (acquired from flea markets and charity shops), Siopis sets fragments of image sequences to words and sound. The work is a poetic evocation of what she identifies as ‘shadow shame’, something which both embodies the loss of dignity and integrity, and offers fertile ground for empathy.

She says: “During lockdown, protests against gender-based violence were happening across the country. Like many people, I couldn’t take to the streets to show solidarity. I could only know and feel this experience through the sway of words and sounds of the media that pierced the bubble of my self-isolation and sparked my imagination.”

Penny has exhibited at Tate Modern, the British Museum and the Freud Museum.

treading water (2021) by Paris Petridis

Paris Petridis (Greece) is a photographer whose work focuses on landscape, memory and the politics of space.

Just as in Britain, cold-water swimming has become increasingly popular in the Mediterranean during the pandemic. Accompanied by composer Michalis Lapidakis’ music, photographer Paris Petridis’ haunting video treading water features a series of photos, taken at a single beach in Thessaloniki, of people standing alone or socially distanced in the water.

With increasing time spent staring at screens indoors, the imagery of anonymous people gazing at the horizon in a wide-open space is reminiscent of a less turbulent moment. But the artist also reminds us that the beach is not a neutral site, where in the context of 2021, images of people at sea also evoke perilous images of migrants crossing global waters.

Paris reflects: “I took the opening image of a man in the water after an early summer thunderstorm. In the moment, I felt it was something worth seeing, nothing more. I realized its existential potential later. It was unexpectedly overwhelming. I thought: What is this place?  Where is this man heading off (to)? What is going on?”

On the context of this imagery in 2021, Petridis adds, “I would like to see it as a metaphor for the human condition per se, its bare existence, its thrownness into this world (geworfenheit) regardless of sociopolitical contingencies or class, race and gender connotations.”

The Peltz Gallery was founded at Birkbeck in 2013. Commissions combine artistic practice and academic research and are uniquely driven by questions about the world around us. The Peltz’s exhibitions profile the work of emerging and established artists from the UK and internationally, bringing rare and underexplored subjects to public view.  Peltz Gallery continues to support artists in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since July 2020, the gallery has commissioned artists to create artworks at home to be shared with audiences online under the heading Lessons from Lockdown.

Further Information

Book your tickets to view the new artworks from Thursday 25 February.

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