Evan Penny - Reviews & Essays


Old Self, Young Self, 2010–2011

For the two portraits of the artist as a young man and an old man, Penny did not work with distortion in the literal sense, but with the distortion of subjective perception, in particular, of self-perception. He was concerned with the projective deformation that naturally ensues when we imagine how we once were or how we will one day be. Today, these constructs of oneself in the past and in the future are decisively influenced by photography, which provides the images to which we can attach our memories and visions. These two aspects of the self-image, the reflective and the projective and their relationship to the photographic, is the theme of the Young Self and Old Self projects.

Penny used the digital 3-D photographic scanning method for both of these portraits. The artist, now in his mid-fifties, used his own body as source material. This also served to define and limit the nature of the reinterpretations in both directions. For the Young Self as well as for the Old Self he had to respect and maintain the connection to the spontaneous moment of the photographic capture and also reflect the realities of his current physical structure.

Moreover, it would be helpful if the form and expression of the respective periods of life could be captured as accurately as possible during the scanning process itself. To achieve this, Penny brought a photograph of himself as a youth and one of his father with him to the scanning studio in order to be able to visualise both ages. While being scanned, he then tried to mentally transport himself to the respective age. During the first scan, he recalled how he felt as a young man: insecure but open to the world. During the second, he thought about his father and imagined how he might feel at that age.

Casting and reworking the milled figures in clay ultimately produced two head-and-shoulders busts. They are imaginary portrayals of the artist as he could have looked and may possibly look one day.

Penny then produced two black-and-white photographs from the finished silicone sculptures. By translating them back into images, however, the two busts gain further authoritative credibility. The photographs re-enact the relationship with the source images that spawned the sculptures, informing and altering the memories and imagination in the process.