Penny Slinger’s ‘Inner Space’ show is as Roland Penrose puts it, an ‘Aladdins treasure and the feast of Belshazzar’, exotic, ebullient, colourful and erotic. To the visitor, the exploration of Inner Space or the psyche is apparent in only a few of Miss Slinger’s collages; and the exploration seems directed almost uniquely towards awareness. A rose implanted in the sole of a foot in one collage corresponds to a ‘third eye’ implanted in the sole of a foot in another, suggesting that there are areas of the body which can receive sense impressions other than those we normally pay heed to. A Group of collages display a woman’s body, decorated with brightly coloured roses. The titles of Lotus Woman, Hermaphrodite Tree and Gateway, suggest that physical and sexual awareness is the path towards mystic experience and more intense spiritual awareness. The Hermaphrodite for instance, in Socrates’ view, had achieved an enviable state of happiness by recombining the male and female halves of man which had been unfortunately sundered in pre-Historic times. It is this search for spiritual awareness that we must bear in mind when we turn to the rest of the exhibition, the bulk of which might accurately have been entitled ‘The Triumphant Clitoris’. For it is a bold, almost aggressive celebration of female sexuality. In several collages, a life-size clitoris becomes the focal point of the composition, replacing in some cases a woman’s features, (in other words, her mind and personality) and in others, holding sway at the centre of the Universe. Miss Slinger’s talent for the exotic and the decorative emerges most charmingly in four doll’s houses which she has decorated with costly materials, and curiosities, like a 50 cent piece within a tiny bottle which must have been constructed around it, or models of creatures which have the characteristics of both bird and woman. This is an extremely provocative exhibition.
Penny Slinger is an artist who began exhibiting in the early 1970s. Her photocollages, sculptures and performances took on emerging feminist concerns about power, sexuality and womanhood. She was a member of Jane Arden’s radical Holocaust Theatre group. She moved to America in the late 1970s and now lives in California
From the 30 September, 1977 issue of ArtReview (then titled Arts Review). This article was republished in the 70th anniversary issue of ArtReview, March 2019