Penny McCarthy’s work is a form of affective negotiation with artefacts, actual or intellectual, tangible or digital, often from the past. She is interested in the time embedded in archival materials, and the ways in which the past resonates through the present and the future, collapsing temporalities, through engagement with records of past works and ideas. She makes detailed pencil drawings on paper alongside text works and sculptural forms. Her work is presented internationally in a variety of contexts: in museums and galleries, at conferences, and as live projects and publications. 

After studying Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University, Penny began her career as a Henry Moore Fellow in Drawing.  She has received recognition from the Henry Moore Foundation, Wellcome Trust, Arts Council England and Arts and Humanities Research Council. Her projects have been shown in Ulysse(s): L’autre mer, at the FRAC, Rennes, France, Nothing is Forever, South London Gallery, and On The Image at Venice International University, San Servolo, Venice (2017). Her picture essay Time will darken paper was commissioned for Esopus (New York) issue 21. An illustrated essay Mirror, is included in Memories of the Future (eds. Deborah Jaffe and Stephen Wilson, 2017). Her DNA drawings were exhibited in Liquid Crystal Display, shown at Site Gallery, Sheffield and MIMA in 2018. Macchia, a digital index of works, is accessible online. Beware the Cat, a collaborative research project for theatre, toured venues including the RSC in 2017-19.
Penny was awarded the Evelyn Williams Drawing Prize at the Trinity Wharf Drawing Prize in 2019 leading to her solo exhibition at Hastings Contemporary in 2022. She will exhibit a new body of work as a solo exhibition in with Sheffield Millennium Galleries in 2025. 

Penny lives and works in Sheffield (UK) where she is a Reader in Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University. In her teaching role at SHU, she leads the MFA Fine Art course, alongside PhD supervision in Art and Design.

Central to Penny’s work is an interest in understanding images through exacting slowness and concentrated observation. In each work she returns to the same image time and again to attend to its visual and material characteristics. Penny’s studio practice is shaped by wide reading; her interest is in the fragment and the odd fact, drawn from deep banks of knowledge in text books, encyclopaedias and archives. Her process builds by accumulating drawing gestures, stories and images that attend to real and imagined events in time. Rather than narrating a specific social reality,  the work is often tangential and allusive, building a more nuanced porous architecture that offers viewers a site for their own thoughts or readings.

Cloud falls in love with mortal, a 15 minute film in collaboration with Hugo Glendinning is here: Cloud falls in love with mortal

All work by Penny McCarthy

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