Evan Penny - Reviews & Essays


No One – In Particular, Series 1, 2001–2005

The idea for No One – In Particular can be traced back to the observation that print media and television often only show us photographs of the heads of unknown people, whom we only perceive as living individuals thanks to the power of our imagination. Like the figures in L. Faux, the sculptures in the first No One – In Particular series are head-and-shoulder busts that are frontally compressed. At one and a half times life size, they are significantly smaller than those of the L. Faux series. For the production of the first No One – In Particular series, the artist initially moulded six portraits in clay. The first of this series of portraits was assembled from several basic pieces of visual information that Penny took from magazines and photographs, but also from passers-by on the street. He freely developed its individual character from his imagination through the clay modelling process. He fashioned each piece based on the one preceding it – the second one modelled on the first, the third one modelled on the second, and so on. For the most part, each variation shares the identical scale, gesture and geometric triangulation between the eyes and the mouth. An average of three casts were subsequently made of each of the six originals, resulting in seventeen sculptures, each generally undifferentiated in size, form and expression from the other. They do not achieve their difference or individuality, or necessarily even their gender, until they are supplied with flesh tones, hair and clothing. In one case, the same original form resulted in both male and female characters.

Like the photographs of the heads of anonymous people in the mass media, the individual sculptures are initially faceless and lack content. They are synthetically generated portraits of people who do not exist. Their personalities and histories are only the culmination of our projective fantasy, which believes it can recognise indicators of individuality in superficial manipulations. The underlying problem of the series, No One – In Particular, stems from the photograph, and it can only be penetrated and solved completely with the aid of the photograph. For this reason, Penny also produced photographs from the sculptures. When contemplating the photographs, the illusion is heightened to such an extent that it becomes apparent certainty, which evaporates again when viewing the sculptures. It is the overt seriality of the work that allows us to doubt their authenticity.