Wednesday, 24 July 2013

The Doppelgänger Effect: Evan Penny

From the dent on the chin, the moles on the skin; the hair all over the body; the veins on the neck to the furrow on the brow; the small smirk hiding laugh lines; the pinch in the nose and even the twinkle in the eye, it seems as real as any human being standing in front of you. 

That is what you will find in Evan Penny's work. True to the name given to his exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 2012, the silicone sculptures on display force one to re figure the reality of the human body. Born in South Africa but raised the rest of his life in Canada, Evan Penny is one of the best-known Canadian artists whose works have been displayed all over the world. 
Imitation of Life

He has worked with beeswax, resin, aluminum, and bronze, but it is silicone sculptures that stand out among all. Although silicone is not the only material Evan has used over his 25-year long career, it is undoubtedly one he has done marvels with. He believes that silicone is one of the most flexible materials that can be used to create art; it allows you to improvise and create a flow. 

"Silicone," Penny says, "is a slice of life, an illusion capable material." 

Although what he is trying to create using the material is not an illusion but simply a representation of the human body as he would see it. 

During the 400-hour long process of creating a single sculpture, he creates and re creates, sometimes using photoshop to manipulate the image, to render a brilliant new version of the sculpture that holds us all involuntarily captive. His motivation in creating such striking life-like sculptures is to capture two of the of the most simple human tasks usually taken for granted: observation and perception. What may be taken as a turning point in his career is his advent into the film industry. He admits that Hollywood forced him to open up to new possibilities. 

A Projection of His Young Self

His collection contains magnified busts of human faces; a couple of them are also full-human figures. He sometimes uses his friends as models, but his true fascination with creation is demonstrated in his "No One In Particular" series. The faces and their expressions are so remarkably life-like that you feel you will inevitably run into them on the street, and they will leave a fleeting impression on your mind: as if déjà vu. They carry an expression of wonderment, feeling lucky that they have been created.

Most exhibits contain media rooms which allow one to feel the silicone used to prepare the sculptures. The uncanny authenticity of the material leaves one with goose bumps. The hair used on the sculptures are taken from a variety of sources like, humans, horses, and yaks, and it takes a hundred hours to make them a part of the sculpture. His assistants painstakingly put in each hair, trim each strand, then put in more and repeat the process until it has been perfected. They even brush the hair in place before putting the sculpture on display.

Evan Penny Ten Year From Now
Also a part of the collection are sculptures of Penny's own self; a representation of what he remembers himself at sixteen years of age (not copied from an old photograph) and another where he projects what he might look like in another ten years. A sculpture of his self, Self Stretch, has been created in mind-boggling 3-D, and it will twist your mind with the amount of detail it carries. 

His creations with Michael Awad, like all others, carry a sense of fleshy existence. They have a human-like sheen on the lips, as if the person took a pause while talking and licked them wet. As you are engulfed in the brilliance of the sculptures, you stand there prepared with an apology if the sculpture opens its mouth and tells you off for being in its face. 

It is truly a warping of one's reality and perception to the extent that one is forced to let go of the controlled notions and perceptions. 

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