World-renowned sculptor Sam Jinks gives art lovers plenty to think about when it comes to the fragility of life. He communicates this theme using silicone, resin, calcium carbonate, fibreglass and hair

SINGAPORE (Feb 6): Australian sculptor Sam Jinks is no stranger to the Singapore art scene, having had his incredible works of art exhibited in the city-state many times. Jinks’ pieces — made of silicone, fibreglass, resin and human hair — get visitors talking about the meaning of life.

Many will remember the Art Stage 2015 event, where Jinks showcased the Kneeling Woman. On closer look, you can see the fine hair wrapped in a neat bun, the skin so thin that the veins show through and every crease on the body is correctly placed. One could call his works poignantly beautiful, I suppose, and his fascination with the human body creates a dialogue as visitors begin to think about their own immortality.

The best way to fully comprehend what Jinks does and how he does it is to watch his YouTube video that shows him creating a sculpture and the lengths he goes to to make it as realistic as possible. He threads the human hair in one by one and even the hair on the arms and legs is inserted one strand at a time.

If you missed Jinks’ previous exhibitions, you can still catch his latest Immortality Project 1 at visual arts cluster Gillman Barracks until Feb 12. In this exhibition, the artist explores Ernest Becker’s book The Denial of Death, which examines the duality in human life: the physical self and the symbolic self.

Jinks, a former graphic artist, recently spoke to Options about his work.

What is Immortality Project I about?
The Immortality Project in this context is my possibly self-indulgent desire to make the perfect sculpture, something that will live on to become more than the sum of its parts.

This is something that has been a painful preoccupation of mine over the last 10 years, with many trials and tribulations along the way. I may never make the perfect work, but would hope that, over time, I may get close.

Why the subject of immortality?
Perhaps this is the unconscious driving force for most artistic activities: to create work that becomes the signature of an individual over a particular period. In my case, I like the idea of work that can exist over time without directly being dated — something that can be viewed in the future without feeling too disconnected from the realities of that time. This is why I tend to depict human subject material. Basic human condition stuff.

How long does it take for you to complete one sculpture? The Reunion, for example?
Usually, it takes a few months, depending on the scale and complexity. Reunion was very complicated, as the figures interlock; the mould is quite a brainteaser.

What kinds of reaction do you hope to get from visitors who view your sculptures for the first time?
I always attempt to make work that the viewer can connect with personally. I have found that many people have an interpretation of the work that is entirely different from my own because they project either themselves or others they know into the work.

How did your fascination for the human form begin?
The human figure has to be one of the most complicated objects to sculpt, as it has so many elements. It’s a complex structure: a bony interior with softer layers wrapped over, which makes it challenging but satisfying to sculpt.

Also, people are very sensitive to the body because it’s something they know so well. So, it needs to be reasonably accurate.

It is also a great way to communicate with people directly. There’s such a great tradition of figurative sculpture and there is a challenge and interest to make something new within that oeuvre.

What were your growing up years like? How did they shape the person you are today?
I started out drawing in most of my spare time and making models and various things out of wood. I spent a lot of time on my own as a child, which was good in a way but not great for my social skills growing up. When I got into my teens,I started sculpting — mostly because I love film and wanted to make monsters but also because I saw the opportunity to translate my drawing into three dimensions.

Your pieces are very real, which begs the question: When you look at a person, what do you see?
I don’t look at people as if they are sculptures; my representation of the body is more symbolic. Sometimes, I notice an individual’s proportions, the differences from person to person, but that’s only because I spend so much time with anatomy in the studio.

Besides immortality, what other topics are you exploring for your next project?
I tend to explore similar themes, how we relate to ourselves and to one another, familial relationships. I have recently begun to explore stories of mythology and reinterpreted them in a contemporary sense. There is so much out there, but it’s challenging to know exactly where to go because, once you go in, it can take many months to complete. I have a list from 10 years ago that I’m slowly working through, but I keep adding to it.

What can we expect from Sam Jinks for the next art instalment?
I am working on a larger piece for an exhibition in Australia in late 2017. At the moment, it’s in the maquette [preliminary model or sketch] stage as I test a few poses. From there, I’ll decide which one to make.

This article first appeared in Issue 765 (Feb 6) of The Edge Singapore