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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Penny Slinger: Out Of The Shadows - Penny Slinger: Out Of The Shadows(Blu Ray) [Anti-World Releasing - 2020]

Here’s an extremely fascinating documentary about Penny Slinger- a largely forgotten English artist,who in the ’60s and ’70s created both erotically charged & surreally dark works in various mediums. The film managers to remain focused, interesting & never too pretentious- making it stand out as one of the more worthy docs I’ve seen focusing in on the arts/artists in recent memory.Here from Anti-World Releasing is a recent Blu Ray release of the film-the disc features the companies normal attention to worthy & interesting extras, which makes for the ultimate edition of this doc.

From 2017 Penny Slinger:Out Of The Shadows was the first feature from director/producer/writer Richard Kovitch. And I must say he has done a splendid job, balancing together good storytelling flow, unsettling mood, shots of Ms Slinger's work, and well balanced never stuffy interviews. The film slides in at the one hour and thirty-eight-minute mark, and normally I’d find that a tad too long for a documentary- but it never lags or drags.

I’ll have admit before this film I’d never heard of Ms Slinger, and had only a passing interest in much of the wider art world- but her story, her art, and take on life/ existence is most compelling. Slinger started her artistic career in the mid 60’s when see attended Farnham college, later moving onto Chelsea collage of Art, and Royal College of Art in the later ’60s. At first, she was creating unsettling short film work, but fairly soon moved onto photographic collage- which often utilized nude/ provocative pictures of her self blended with dark surreal imagery. In later years she would move onto distributing & experimental theatre, film, and sculpture- which pushed her work deeper in unsettling sexual & grim imagery, with themes of women's treatment in art, mental health, the English class system, marriage, & sexual abuse. One of the films she featured in was the controversial underground cult classic 1972’s The Other Side of the Underneath- which focused in visionary and disturbing depictions of the mental state of its schizophrenic protagonist(Slinger). One of the people involved in this film later burnt themselves alive, and this deeply affected Slinger- which lead her onto create her most celebrated work 1977’s An Exorcism- the book featured a blend of surreal and darkly sensual photographs of herself in a grand large country house setting, exploring a blend of dreams, desire, sex, female liberation, abuse and memory. In the late ’70s/ 80’s she rather turned her back on the art world, as she had become tired of her treatment by the then still very much male-run art-world.

The film charts her whole career in a mostly even & balanced manner- later moving onto discuss what she’s been doing in the ensuing years, and her works impact on both new artists & new audiences. The whole thing is soundtracked by a wonderful bleakly heady, unease and at points chilling soundtrack created by Psychological Strategy Board. And if I have a sole criticising of this release it’s a pity we don’t get a second CD soundtrack disc with the set- as it really is that good…though of course, I can appreciate the cost/logistics of doing something like that.


Moving onto this recent region free Blu Ray release- and on the extra front, we get a great selection of stuff. First off  we have a commentary track from director Richard Kovitch, and this is most interesting- he starts off by talking about when he first saw Slinger’s work in 2012, moving onto cover how the doc came about & the around five years it took to create the project. He goes onto discuss the 60’s and 70’s, and other key artists/how they relate to Slinger, later he talks about the great soundtrack, and few other things- all told a most worthy track. Moving on we get a fifty-minute audience with Slinger filmed in Joshua Tree, California with writer and critic Chris Campion asking the questions. There’s a five minute short that sees Slinger returning to Lilford Hall that featured as the backdrop for the An Exorcism book. We get a twenty-minute presentation of the pages from An Exorcism. A thirty-four minute live improv set performed by Kim Gordon & Lizzi Bougatsos, with a backdrop of Slinger’s early experimental 16mm. With the finished release coming with a thirty-six-page inlay booklet featuring new writing on the film by Chris Campion, an interview with Penny Slinger by Richard Kovitch, analyses of Slinger’s artworks by Alissa Clarke and Patricia Allmer, and film credits.

The best and most worthy documentaries fully pull you in and engrossing you in it's subject, and that’s exactly what Penny Slinger: Out Of The Shadows does. I can see this appealing to anyone who has an interested in transgressive imagery, and this it's most certainly not just another drab & scholar led art doc. To buy direct head here

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Roger Batty
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