Chris Penn was born at Battle in Sussex in 1943. She studied at Hastings College of Art (1958–61), Central School of Art (1961–64), trade engraving at the Sir John Cass School in London’s East End, and the Slade School of Art (1977–78). At Central she was taught relief printmaking techniques by Gertrude Hermes who was to become a close personal friend; to this day Chris Penn remains a staunch advocate of the art of copper plate engraving which she believes to be in danger of of becoming a lost skill. She was also fortunate to benefit from the teachings of Roderic Barrat at Central: 'How I adored his endless wisdom. Three whole years of it!', she recalled.
She has staged several solo exhibitions of her work in London and in Stockholm and has contributed to numerous group shows including the ICA Gallery (London), Royal Academy of Art and Gallery Graphic Huset (Stockholm). Sussex Ironmaster (1965) is reproduced in Walter Chamberlain’s essential Manual of Wood Engraving (Thames and Hudson, London 1978). Her prints are represented in public collections from the Sainsbury Centre at the University of East Anglia to the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The University of Wales, Aberystwyth, however, holds the largest public collection. These were purchased from and donated by the artist.
Penn’s works on metal, and ‘engravings’ on wood and linoleum, as well as her carved and painted sculptures, show enormous diversity. In each she has been concerned with the representation of the human form, the figure a vehicle in her search to find visual equivalents for certain emotions, political or religious beliefs. The extraordinarily personal motifs she engraves on linoleum and copper are distinctive and highly emotive. Chris Penn recently moved from Nottingham to Northumberland where she continues to work.