Laney Contemporary presents en plein air , a solo exhibition by artist Will Penny. Informed by a studio practice that transcends medium and its borders, Penny works with generative design in connection with painting, sculpture, and animation for this new body of work about the experience of perception itself.

en plein air, commonly translated as outdoors or painting outside, explores a kind of virtual sublime. While the sublime as an experience may be impossible to replicate, the human desire to re-create speechless awe or wonder remains intact as an artistic goal. Penny experiments with a hybridized practice inspired by painting while leaving no digital stone unturned. The artist recognizes that a search for the sublime or a deepening experience with the act of perception is a journey rather than a finish line. His practice, rather than professing, intuits the importance of questioning, of research and development, all as part of an experimental studio dynamic.

Emerging from the premise that we can translate the experience of natural phenomena and physical immersion into digital forms, a number of mediums have been incorporated: 3D scanning, industrial spray-guns, digital fabrication, animation, magnetics, projection mapping, and 3D printing of levitating sculptures. The work seeks to translate the sensation of a fragmented and disembodied sense of natural wonder within our surrounding landscape. Using photogrammetry (surveying and mapping distances) of the city and natural settings of Savannah, snapshot-like fragments are synthesized into digital works that emulate the sensations of a place. Rather than a fixed image, Penny looks for a flexible use of images, a warming up of our experience with digital media. Much like the practice of observational painting, or painting en plein air , fragments of Savannah are reconstructed using a variety of digital programs, creating hybrid composites, which reference sites and memories without over-representation of them.

Using materials such as acrylic, enamel, mirrored surface, and nylon fiber flocking in a variety of combinations, close detailed looking is encouraged, slowing down the act of seeing. The work of art in many ways offers a moment of pause. Penny leans away from leading titles, not wanting to steer the content; instead heightening an awareness of light, color, and time. Penny’s exhibition asks: What do you allow in? What do you notice and what don’t you notice all around you? Do we still have the capacity to wonder? He writes: “Our relationship to technology is loaded with excitement, apprehension, hope, and terror. In my eyes, it is a new form of the unknown.”

Will Penny (b. 1984) was raised in southern Ontario and currently lives and works in Savannah, Georgia. He earned a diploma in Fine Art from Fanshawe College in London, Ontario and then a BFA and an MFA from The Savannah College of Art and Design where he is an adjunct professor of Foundation Studies. His work has been exhibited at The Jepson Center for the Arts, South St. Gallery in Brooklyn, Icebox in Philadelphia, Rally in Toronto, the Westobou Festival, and the Knoxville Museum of Art.