Robyn Denny is a painter and video artist whose powerful multimedia installations are internationally recognised. Their energy is a creative catharsis born of intensely opposing forces. Denny’s most recent work, Traces of Untold Stories, explores tension arcs from colonial trauma to contemporary renewal with a haunting video installation, video stills, and large ink paintings.
MAGENTA SUGARCANE: “I explore the tension arc from colonial trauma to contemporary renewal, using the practice of ‘Somatic Abolitionism’, which trains one to acknowledge generational trauma stored in the body, I’m ‘listening’ to places and people with my Vagus nerve, unpacking intersecting histories from a cellular level.
In my creative process, I ask how we are implicated in a historical unfolding and how we might transform it. I work with images that have a deep guttural resonance — images that move me out of my head into my feeling centre. From this space, the pieces evolve.
My present series, MAGENTA SUGARCANE, is both inspired by Dr. Devrakshanam (Betty) Govinden and the memories of entrapment and entanglement that permeated my Natal childhood.
This fecundity of Durban foliage — particularly the tall, wild and tangled sugarcane — drew me in. Yet, over time, a guttural unease emerged with the knowledge of how such plantations came into being through exploitative and extractive practices.
Later, during heady trips in my teens across the Indian Ocean to the island of Mauritius, I learned that the sugar estates there were part of the same inhumane system. As in Natal, Indian indentured labour serviced the South African sugar industry.
In MAGENTA SUGARCANE, Betty and I track embodied becoming through difficult inner landscapes in film, painting, and poetry”.
Denny’s art draws us into a sense of shared humanity.
2002 Diploma in Film Making: The New York Film Academy, London
2000 Master of Arts in Fine Arts: Goldsmiths College, University of London
1997 Honours in History of Art: University of Cape Town (Irma Stern Scholarship)
1994 Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts: Michaelis, University of Cape Town
2023 Optimal Vibration, Group Exhibition, Graham Contemporary, Johannesburg
2022 Berman Contemporary, Johannesburg
2020 Berman Contemporary, Johannesburg
2018 Berman Contemporary, Johannesburg
2018 REGROUP Michaelis Alumni, Gallery 196 Victoria, Cape Town
2017 AKAA Paris Art Fair
2016 SLOWTRACK (Marta Moriarty Gallery) Madrid
2016 LOOP Barcelona Art Fair
2016 Gallery MOMO, Cape Town
2014 Lovell (Sulgel-Buel Lovell) Gallery, Cape Town
2013 Lovell (Sulgel-Buel Lovell) Gallery, Cape Town