“Bachman has been one way in which I have tried to refresh my craft, and to keep from being too comfy and well-padded”—Stephen King ‘The Importance of Being Bachman’
Artu Peatoo was born out of a desire to invigorate our studio practice and to introduce a different kind of flexibility into our creative thinking. As Artu we can explore themes, ideas, techniques and technologies that may not sync with our established individual trajectories and our anonymity within the collaboration allows for a creative freedom that is a reward in and of itself as well as being of great value to our individual practices as Robyn Penn and Richard Penn.
South Africa’s covid-19 lockdown was stringent by international standards and we were under full lockdown from 26 March to the 1st May. Our practice didn’t change much during this period except that we had a lot more time with which to occupy ourselves. Weekends spent at home with our son saw the natural emergence of Artu Peatoo as an occupying force on the dining room table and what we discovered was a practice of recycling old and discarded drawings over which we made new marks, photocopied and printed off cuts and utilised carbon and graphite transfer techniques. A kind of circular economy to the soundtrack of Aldous Harding, Lana Del Rey and M. Ward.
The drawings are not about the pandemic, nor are they about our reflections during lockdown but rather, they reflect a practice that was born out of the conditions of lockdown. We couldn’t buy new materials, we had access to limited technologies like our home printer and copier and we had to work from our family space as opposed to our studios.
Why did Artu become preoccupied with old images of modernist artists relaxing in their gardens and studios, visiting museums and engaging in daily domestic routines? Perhaps with some hindsight we may be able to identify in the drawings some of the anxieties we were experiencing at the time, anxieties relating to the world at large rather than to our personal situation which was insulated, safe and occupied by people who were relatively unaffected by isolation. Perhaps this collection of prints is a marker of 35 days of insulation and alienation from a world descending into chaos. Perhaps Artu will emerge at other times of great change or on rainy days like Richard Bachman. He may have something interesting or arbitrary to say before she sinks, once again, below the surface while her pseudonyms take time to indulge in their own preoccupations.