Singapore Art Week

Modelling a monster after his wife

Australian artist Sam Jinks working on his Medusa sculpture, which is modelled after the face of his wife, Emma.
Australian artist Sam Jinks working on his Medusa sculpture, which is modelled after the face of his wife, Emma.PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND SULLIVAN+STRUMPF SINGAPORE

Do not stare. That is the warning issued in Greek mythology to those tempted to lay eyes on Medusa, a creature with venomous snakes as hair. Anyone who gazes at her face will turn into stone.

It might be hard, though, to tear one's eyes away from the mythical creature fashioned from silicone by Australian artist Sam Jinks.

His work, Medusa, is one of three new sculptures depicting life-like human forms showing at Immortality Project I, his solo exhibition at the gallery Sullivan+Strumpf Singapore in Gillman Barracks.

The show is part of Singapore Art Week, the annual round-up of visual arts offerings which runs from tomorrow to Jan 22.

The exhibition draws inspiration from The Denial Of Death (1973), the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by anthropologist Ernest Becker, which suggests that man's fear of death leads him to seek forms of immortality in activities that endure beyond a human's lifespan.

This belief resonates with the 44-year-old artist, who started out as an illustrator. He says his "immortality project" has been a "painful preoccupation" over the last 10 years to "make the perfect sculpture, something that will live on to become more than the sum of its parts".

  • VIEW IT / IMMORTALITY PROJECT I

  • WHERE: Sullivan+Strumpf Singapore, 01-06 Gillman Barracks, 5 Lock Road

    WHEN: Till Feb 12, 11am to 7pm (Tuesdays to Saturdays), 11am to 6pm (Sundays), by appointment on Mondays

    ADMISSION: Free

"I may never make the perfect work," he adds, "but I hope that over time, I may get close to it."

The other two works in the exhibition are Carcass Bearer, which depicts a man carrying a calf on his shoulders, and Reunion, which shows two women with identical features embracing each other. The works are priced from $50,000.

Carcass Bearer was inspired by a Hellenic sculpture with a similar composition, which, for Jinks, draws attention to the consumable nature of the human body.

Reunion, on the other hand, brings to mind tender moments in life when a person reminds one of a dead family member or friend.

Medusa, though, is the most personal work among the three pieces. The hyper-realistic, larger-than-life sculpture of a female head is modelled after the face of Jinks' wife, Emma, 42. She makes footwear and accessories. They have a 12-year-old son and a six-year-old daughter.

He says: "I've always wanted to make a sculpture of Emma as she has such a strong face. She projects a strong personality and she hides her vulnerableness well - fierce fragility, if you will."

For him, the work is about "having the strength to look our dearest relations in the face and recognise that tragically, all relationships end".

He says: "Emma and I have two children and, at times, it feels as though we have to face the transitory nature of life to fully immerse ourselves in the process and experience of living."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2017, with the headline 'Modelling a monster after his wife'. Print Edition | Subscribe