Jim Revisited, 2011
In 1985 Penny created a sculpture for which his friend Jim acted as the model. When, in 2011, he gave a sculpture the title Jim Revisited, it didn’t mean for him a renewed examination of Jim the person, but rather an exploration of his earlier work. The original Jim was four-fifths life size, modelled in clay and cast in grey synthetic resin. For Jim Revisited, the artist used his entire expanded repertoire of illusionistic skills. He employed laser scanning, which when carried out on living people, had only yielded inaccurate results. Yet applying this method to the lifeless synthetic resin sculpture, Jim, had definite advantages. Under controlled conditions, the motionless object with its opaque surface would be scanned by the laser beam as slowly and as detailed as necessary. The quality of the data that was gathered was sufficient for the production of a faithful replica.
In this work, Penny was not concerned with reproducing a real person but with comparing two stages of artistic development. For all of its attention to detail, the old Jim continues to possess synthetic neutrality, which rules out the possibility of mistaking it for a real person. Despite the fact that Jim Revisited is the sculpture of a sculpture, and is substantially more removed from the real person than Jim, it seems far more lifelike. Penny insisted on making alterations to his earlier work. He added a thin layer of clay to the milled hard-foam form, which allowed him to refine the details. The silicone cast of this reworked sculpture, painted in layers and implanted with hair, achieved an authenticity that is peculiar to Penny’s most recent sculptures. And yet the figure makes visible the process of media translation, of which it is the result. The twice-life-size Jim Revisited leans ominously into the viewer’s space. What is more, the figure tapers downwards like a funnel. The feet are smaller than they should actually be, the head larger. There is not a single perspective from which the sculpture can be seen as undistorted. In this manner, a work of art developed that is both extremely credible and incredible at the same time.