I'M PENNY AND I HAND CUT EXTREMELY DETAILED AND OCCASIONALLY MIND-BOGGLING TINY STENCILS WITH MY BARE HANDS ... AND A SCALPEL.
IN THE BEGINNING...I gave up a career as a neurosurgeon and instead use my scalpel for the more worthy pursuit of cutting holes in paper.
The first stencil I cut was in 2001 when I was at Central Saint Martins doing a graphic design degree. I was so poor at the time that whenever we got a project I would always try to work out the cheapest possible way to do it… most of the time that meant making my course work out of paper, masking tape and found items. That was usually nothing more exciting than cardboard boxes, scrap wood or defunct machinery that I found in skips. I was like an East London Womble trying to recycle rubbish in creative ways, it was a bit ridiculous! A break though moment happened when I found a few cans of car paint in a cupboard under the stairs in my flat and thought to myself, “That’s gonna save money on printing costs!” I started to use stencilling for almost every single project after that. I started off by cutting text for large format posters until I eventually cut much smaller type and from there went on to cut stencils for pictures. It was very limited at the time and I learnt as I went along, making mistakes and correcting them, thinking up new techniques for specific problems. That was the fun and the beauty of it — I loved the limitations, the limitations gave me a kind of freedom. I know that sounds like an oxymoron but having to find a solution to a visual brief with a limited palette of materials was very exciting. Each project brought new challenges and I tried to find a way to push myself with each stencil by making it more complicated or more detailed, or much smaller, I was always trying to improve from the last stencil. It has taken me on a journey that I’m still on today.
Penny graduated from Chelsea College of Art & Design and Central Saint Martins and quickly established himself within the urban art scene in London. He has since received global critical acclaim for his hand cut, extremely detailed stencil artwork.
Penny jokes that he used to be a neurosurgeon that now uses his talent with a scalpel to cut holes in paper, and it's easy to see how this could be be true – the precision and detail in his artwork is requisite to that of skilled surgeon.
Penny finds inspiration in everyday objects and often overlooked ephemera but money is the most prominent recurring theme in his work, which he regards as "representative of a sinister voyeur, an omnipresent force watching over its subjects".
Through his choices of the objects he paints on and interacts with, as well as his techniques, he brings the subversive ideas behind street art to a different kind of public property: the type that can fit in your wallet.