Penelope Davis was born and lives in Melbourne. Davis is primarily known as a post-photographic artist creating photographs without a camera. Her final images are not simple photographs but are cameraless photograms or scans that capture light refracting through tranparent resin casts taken from objects such as analogue cameras and old books. Using complicated sculptural techniques, Davis makes silicone moulds then resin casts of the now absent objects. Finally light is passed through the casts to expose photographic paper that is developed and printed. The result is an indexical trace of an object many steps removed from its origin. In doing so, the works record not only an image but a process – a chain of transformations and inversions – akin to the processes of photography itself but one that recasts photography in a new light.
More recently Davis has been creating jellyfish forms from a collage of components in a similar way. Taking the detritus of contemporary technologies and combining these with organic source material such as leaves and seaweed, Davis makes casts in silicone, then uses these casts themselves as forms. The artist hand sews these ‘skins’ together to create delicate hybrid forms that resemble jellyfish. These works reflect on, and embody, a painstaking attempt to recuperate an appreciation for the natural world, our symbiotic relationship with it, and the necessity of our shared future.
Davis has exhibited extensively throughout Australia and overseas and has been included in many prestigious group exhibitions including, Order & Disorder: Archives and Photography (2008); Light Sensitive: Contemporary Australian Photography (2006), First Impressions (2003), and 2nd Sight (2003), all at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. In 2003 Davis was the recipient of an Australia Council Studio Residency in Tokyo and in 2007 she was the recipient of the ANZ Visual Arts Award. In 2015, Penelope Davis and Stephen Haley were awarded the Rupert Bunny Fellowship for a collaborative work. In 2016 Davis will undertake a City of Melbourne grant and residency at Carlton Connect Lab-14 to develop a body of work addressing issues of climate change and sustainability. Davis has been a selected finalist in several other award exhibitions such as the Josephine Ulrich and Wynn Schubert Photography Award, Gold Coast City Gallery, Queensland (2007 & 2009); the William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize (2007), Monash Gallery of Art and the Fremantle Print Award (2007), Fremantle Arts Centre, Western Australia. She was also a finalist in the Moet and Chandon Touring Exhibition, touring all Australian State Galleries in 1999. In 2007 Davis exhibited with 2 other artists, Joyce Kohl and Stephen Haley, at LA Artcore in Los Angeles. More recently an extensive survey exhibition of Davis’ work, Phototropic, was held at the Academy Gallery in Launceston in 2012.
Recent curated exhibitions include Divine Abstraction, Justin Art House Museum (2016), Ex-libris – the book in contemporary art, Geelong Gallery (2014), Perceptions of Space: Justin Collection, Glen Eira City Gallery (2014), Missing Presumed Dead travelling to regional galleries in Tasmania, Queensland and Western Australia (2013), Interieur-Exterieur at Lumas Galleries, Paris (2010), and The Apple Project, AC Institute, New York (2010). Penelope Davis’ work is held in numerous public and corporate collections nationally and internationally, including the National Gallery of Victoria, Artbank, ANZ Bank, DC Design China, Victorian College of the Arts, City of Port Phillip, BHP Billiton, University of Melbourne and private collections within Australia, USA, Europe, China and Japan.