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Elspeth Penfold was born to Anglo-Argentine parents in La-Paz, Bolivia in 1953. She spent her formative years in La Paz and Cochabamba (Bolivia), Santiago (Chile), Lima (Peru) and Montevideo (Uruguay). At the age of 19 she came to England to study and met her husband Phil at Essex University. They now live in Wimbledon and have three sons, two daughter-in-laws and three granddaughters who all live close by. At present Elspeth develops her art practice in both Whitstable and London, with frequent trips to Argentina to visit relatives and gather inspiration.
My work is concerned with origins, journeys and destinations. I have a background in sociology as well as art which is reflected in my practice. My family's background as emigrees to Argentina and my own reverse emigration from South America to the UK, has had a great influence on my thinking about art and on my work. My Argentine grandmother was a great knitter, and I grew up in Bolivia and Peru surrounded by beautiful indigenous textiles. I still have the blanket which was worn by my family's Bolivian cook which was used to carry me around on her back when I was a baby. I have great pride in my roots, Italian, English and Argentine, and in the places where I grew up, Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Uruguay. My artwork also reflects the influences of my adult life spent in England. As a result of my background and nomadic existence I am interested in how people and objects can be transformed into one existence and rooted in another.
The Chilean artist Cecilia Vicuna's writing "Impossible Weavings", where the act of making transforms you and takes you into another place, has influenced my work greatly and one of my first Installations carries that title in acknowledgement of this influence. This piece also has a touch of humour as it is not woven but knitted and the allusion to Cecilia Vicuna becomes therefore more poignant as it is really referring to the spaces she talks about in her poetry.
The Argentine writer Cesar Paternosto in his book Piedra Abstracta has also been a significant influence, which has expressed itself in a desire to question how and why some academics and art historians classify art forms,and create a sequential notion of art movements and histories with a desire to control and rationalise what can often be a very irrational process. The randomness of some of my knitted pieces, like Lobster Pot Garden which is by traditional knitting standards not particularly "good" knitting, expresses this. I intend Lobster Pot Garden to leave the viewer slightly nonplussed as to whether this is knitting, sculpture or painting, as the way I uses colour in the piece is very painterly.
I have recently been part of a studio team working on an installation by the Brazilian artist Maria Nepomuceno called "Tempo para Respirar" (Time to Breathe) at the Turner Contemporary, in Margate. Maria's work follows the traditions established by Ernesto Neto and Helena Oiticca using craft based materials and traditional craft making techniques to create great pieces of artwork.
I recreate forgotten spaces, ruins and iconic structures and will often use collage and paint to create a final piece. I am interested in spaces and how materials become integrated to become a part of something new. I work with many types of materials including paint, collage, string, wire and twine. Apart from being a painter I also work with print and installation.
More of my work can be seen on my website www.elspethpenfold.co.uk.