Penny Goring’s survey, titled “Penny World,” brings to mind words the late painter Paula Rego used to describe the lone protagonist of Girdle, 1995: “I thought of her as cast out, a sinner in the wilderness . . . A real, lumpy, bumpy woman who has sinned.” Like Rego’s interpretations of fairy tales—where the line between innocence and experience, victims and perpetrators gets complicated—Goring’s biro and colored felt-tip drawings intermingle sex and violence in frank illustrations of alienation, hysteria, deprivation, and mutilation. The exhibition is also populated with lumpy, bumpy women in the form of dolls—Plague Doll, 2019; Blue Murder Doll, 2019; Grief Doll, 2019; Poison Doll, 2021; Hell Doll, 2022—stuffed and hand-stitched from silk, velvet, and other fabric cast-offs, their heads and limbs missing, contorted, or elongated. Adrift and abandoned, the dolls sit on plinths like totems or hang high on the walls like religious icons. Their plush, yielding materiality and repurposed domestic textiles recall works by Louise Bourgeois, Yayoi Kusama, and Dorothea Tanning, who have all represented the body in pieces, laden with fetishistic intensity.
Elsewhere, a series of “anxiety objects”—soft sculptures hung on ropes and bearing names like Grey Lump, Cry Baby, and Red Torment, all 2017—invite comparisons between artistic and therapeutic processes. Here, the aesthetics of accumulation and compulsion intertwine with an attempt to resolve psychological trauma. In two video poems, Fear, 2013, and Please Make Me Love You, 2014, she recites desires, terrors, and rage with a mantralike delivery. Goring has also installed billboard-sized collages in which her face and body are pasted over various images culled from the internet. In one, she appears as Bianca Jagger astride a bug-eyed white horse at Studio 54, hijacking Rose Hartman’s iconic image of velvet-roped glamour and hedonistic splendor. It’s Penny’s world, after all. We’re just living in it.
— Philomena Epps