Penny Slinger: Out of the Shadows is a documentary film directed by Richard Kovitch which focuses on a particular section of the life and work of artist and writer Penny Slinger, who achieved a considerable degree of recognition and even notoriety for her work in the 1960s and 1970s but who by the 1980s in terms of the art world had largely disappeared from view – although more recently her work has been rediscovered.
(In a different area of work she had considerable success as an author, with her books in multiple translations going on to sell a million or more copies.)
She collaborated with filmmakers included Peter Whitehead, Jack Bond and Jane Arden and created a body of work which often utilised collage and images of herself, some of which was published in the books 50% The Visible Woman (1971) and An Exorcism (1970).
Initially in the documentary when focusing on her 1960s work and Swinging London there is a playful sense of youthful exploration, albeit tinged with darker undercurrents but as the documentary progresses that darkness becomes more overt and much of the work shown and elements of the background to its creation are intriguing, often entrancing to the viewer but also deeply and darkly unsettling – which is a description that could well be applied to the documentary itself.
Aside from the overtly more transgressive, sexual and shocking elements the collages seem to contain an underlying atmosphere which also unsettles the viewer and may be due to the way in which it seems to explore subconscious archetypes:
“A primitive mental image inherited from the earliest human ancestors, and supposed to be present in the collective unconsciousness.” (Dictionary definition of archetypes.)
Penny Slinger’s work often stages darkly psycho-sexual dramas that are anything but “sexy” or titillating in a conventional manner.
In the sense of crossing the thresholds of taboos, of a life and creative work lived and created on the edges of things, Penny Slinger’s use of herself in her collages and the sexual nature of the images in her work appears to both prefigure and parallel Cosey Fanni Tutti’s.
As with some of Cosey Fanni Tutti’s earlier visual work, viewed now much of Penny Slinger’s collage based work still appears shocking and transgressive (albeit in a thought-provoking rather than shock for shock’s sake manner).
Penny Slinger made the film Lilford Hall (1969) in collaboration with Peter Whitehead, which was shot in a deserted rural manor house and much of her collage work also appears to have been shot at the same/a similar location.
Penny Slinger’s work was decidedly not purely fashion orientated but she had a striking visual presence which was accompanied by an awareness and use of the aesthetics of clothing and style within her work.
Comparisons could be made and connections drawn between Penny Slinger’s work and that of photographer Deborah Turbeville’s fashion work from the 1970s, which often used not dissimilar locations and an associated sense of faded grandeur, crumbling texturality and as with Penny Slinger’s work invoke the sense that the viewer is looking in on (or even intruding on) a dream.
The soundtrack to the documentary was created by Psychological Strategy Board, which is Paul Snowdon (Time Attendant) and Maybury and is released by Front & Follow.
This perfectly compliments the film and in itself is an immersive experience; heard in conjunction with Out of the Shadows its ominous drones and often disquieting atmosphere put me in mind of some lost and forgotten early black and white David Cronenberg film, while the likes of The Synthetic Profile from the soundtrack also brings to mind a more ambient, shadowed in the distance of awareness take on the industrial explorations of earlier Einstürzende Neubauten.
Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
Day #29/365: Alison Goldfrapp – Performer As Curator and a wander through crumbling textures
Day #44/365: Katie Jane Garside, Ruby Throat and delicate artifacts
Week #28/52: Symptoms and gothic bucolia
Week #46/52: Midnight Movies, (re)findings, crumbling textures and a certain geometric otherlyness…