Female Stretch, 2011
The approach to the sculpture, Female Stretch, is similar to that taken with Jim Revisited. Here too scanning and computer-controlled milling was used to reproduce an earlier work: Ali, a figure from 1984 made of synthetic resin that Penny had produced in colour. In his earlier work, which depicts a naked young woman, Penny placed a great deal of importance on avoiding any kind of idealisation. The flesh tones of the figure, which is four-fifths life size, the pattern of its wrinkles and its cellulite are all reproduced meticulously; indeed, they may well be exaggerated. For Female Stretch, however, Penny was interested in emphasising that Ali is a media-generated artefact. For this purpose, he modified the data obtained from the scan with an image-editing program. He cropped the image to the format of a passport photograph and then enlarged and stretched it so that the computercontrolled mill produced a 304-centimetre-high head-and-shoulders bust. He lent realistic detail to the skin by reworking the pattern of the wrinkles with modelling clay. During casting, pigment was added to the silicone layers, making them seem a great deal more realistic than the earlier sculpture. Thus, Penny’s examinations of his earlier works not only represent a self-referential reflection, but at the same time enable a kind of comparison of his proficiency: they demonstrate the extent to which the sculptor has since refined his artisanal sophistication.