Born in Australia, Penelope Kenny now lives and works in Brighton. Her work explores the relationship between humans and animals especially in connection to themes such as evolution. We catch up with her with our artist’s Q&A...
What or who are the main inspirations behind your work?
I am inspired by how we perceive, organise and try to control nature, especially in relation to genetic manipulation and scientific tampering with the species boundaries.
How do you approach the actual making of a piece?
I usually begin each new print with some kind of first hand research. I go to Natural History Museums and antiquarian libraries looking for things that catch my eye, looking at colours and taking photographs.
I have a growing collection of amazing antiquarian illustrated books that I get from eBay and second hand markets that I use as resource material. I don’t use Photoshop much (unless I am working with photographs) and prefer instead to use scissors, magic tape and drawing to put things together.
I create the positives for the silkscreens with photocopies and by painting with Indian ink on to tracing paper. I print all my work myself and make the inks I use by mixing pure pigments with pearlescent powders. I decide on the colours as I proof the print, testing things out until I get a final image I am happy with and am ready to edition.
What themes do you pursue?
Transhumanism, hybrids and evolution.
What’s your medium?
Water-based screen printing
What are you currently working on?
I have been commissioned to design and edition a series of prints for a company based in London. Once that is done I have some new ideas that I am keen to get into the studio with, I think things are going to get more botanical.
Describe an average day for you.
An average day alternates between making art, ordering materials, researching, printing, admin, invoicing, and framing. On the best days I am mostly printing.
What led you to become an artist?
Following a teenage dream
What’s the strongest memory of your childhood?
My strongest childhood memories are triggered by the scent of eucalyptus as I grew up in Australia.
What jobs have you done other than being an artist?
I have done all sorts of jobs over the years- I worked as a Tram Conductor in Melbourne, as a Gallery Assistant in London, and painted murals and taught English in Mexico.
What’s the one thing you can’t live without?
What superpower would you have and why?
Power bestowal so my friends could have super powers too.
Name three artists you would like to be compared to and why?
I am influenced by many artists, from 19th century taxidermists like Walter Potter to more contemporary artists such as Mark Dion or Thomas Grünfeld.
In another life (if you weren’t an artist) what would you be doing?
Hopefully I would be exploring the world as some other kind of animal
What’s the best piece of advice you have been given?
As an artist to have ‘the skin of an armadillo’