"I have always been inspired by Chuck Close... I was not only blown away by the level of detail in his work, but also the varied approaches he took to achieve a final piece. ... I looked into how he worked and saw that he planned his pieces meticulously - I found it very inspiring."
Penny is a London based stencil artist whose work has amazed and enthralled viewers across Europe. With sell out shows in 2011, Penny's highly technical hand cut stencils are brought to life through colour and he regards the lengthy process as important as the final piece. Here he talks to London Calling's Anita Mistry about his upcoming show 'Economy of Scale' at Rook and Raven Gallery.
London Calling: Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
Penny: Hello. My name is Penny and I create artwork primarily using very intricate hand-cut stencils. It's a very time consuming process that can involve me working on a particular stencil for months. A couple of pieces that I will be showing for "Economy of Scale" at Rook and Raven Gallery have been slowly but surely cut out over the last year or so and consist of roughly 100,000 holes! I like to paint on various substrates, including framed taxidermy butterflies and black panels, but I really love to paint on currency.
LC: How has your practice changed over time?
P: I have always set myself targets to try to improve my work on the technical side, making each piece I attempt more complicated or smaller than the last. I really want to push a medium that is pretty crude (using just a scalpel, paper and spray paint) and try to active results that seem almost impossible. The challenge itself is a massive part of the work for me - as you can probably imagine I am a little bit obsessive and I try to embrace that and let it drive the artwork.
LC: What past experiences have contributed to what you are doing now?
P: I graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2004 with a BA(Hons) in graphic design. The course was a real struggle financially and I was forced into doing every project on the cheap. Each project I did over the three years there was made using paper - this got me into stencilling as I found that it was a lot cheaper to cut and paint at home than go to Kinkos and pay a bomb for printing full colour A0 posters.
LC: Which artists inspire you?
P: I have always been inspired by Chuck Close. I was fascinated by his work ever since I went to his show at the Hayward Gallery in 1999. I was not only blown away by the level of detail in his work, but also the varied approaches he took to achieve a final piece. He uses techniques from finger print paintings to collage to tapestry and the results he gets are amazing. I looked into how he worked and saw that he planned his pieces meticulously - I found it very inspiring.
LC: Do you listen to music whilst you work? What kind?
P: I used to listen to a lot of music when I worked, but cutting out stencils for up to 14 hours a day, the music seemed to merge into one long song. Given that I can go into auto pilot when cutting, I thought I would put my brain to better use and listen to on-line lectures and audio books. I can get through a book a day at the same time as doing a full days work, it's great! I'm very into science, philosophy, geopolitics and the idiotic ramblings of Karl Pilkington.
LC: Who would you love to collaborate with?
P: I would be very interested in collaborating across genres, I'm not sure with who or in what field, but I like the idea of taking art away from the art world and sticking somewhere else to see how it gets on.
LC: Where would you have your dream exhibition?
P: I think I might be having it this month at Rook and Raven! The space is phenomenal, the location is great and it's in my hometown. I get on very well with everyone at the gallery and they have allowed me to produce whatever I wanted for the show without interference. I was a little worried at the beginning with the size of the gallery, being that a lot of my work is so small, but it has only made me up my game a bit more and reach a new level of obsessiveness - I can't wait for the opening night!
LC: What do you love about London? What's your favourite place/ thing to do in London?
P: I love the diversity of London, and having such a huge wealth of cultural institutions on my doorstep is amazing - there's always something going on. I love to go to galleries, see gigs and watch the Arsenal at the Emirates, but my thoughts are often not that far from my stomach, so eating out is my favourite thing to do.
LC: And where?
P: McDonalds in Kings Cross Train Station.
You can see Penny's new exhibiton 'Economy of Scale' at the Rook and Raven Gallery from 17 May to 21 June 2012.
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