The Anatomy of an Amazing Artwork – ‘The Hanging Man’ by Sam Jinks
The way we judge whether or not we like an artwork is based purely on what we see whereas the way we judge whether or not we like a person is based on a far more complex and varied process, which requires a certain level of interaction in order for us to learn enough about the person to make an informed and fair judgement. When we meet someone for the first time we go through a series of analytical processes in an attempt to gain an understanding of the other person. We require this understanding so that we can gauge how we should interact with this person and avoid an awkward, uncomfortable or unsettling confrontation. It is this process of human interaction that comes into question in the ultra realistic sculptures of human bodies by Australian artist Sam Jinks.
Before turning his talents to making his own art, Jinks worked as a commercial sculptor for film and television where he honed his skills creating all manner of creatures. It was these skills that led to several years collaborating with internationally renowned Australian artist Patrica Piccinini on some of the bizarre figures that appear in her artwork.
The most confronting of Jinks sculptures, “The Hanging Man”, exudes an awkward sense of discomfort as his small, almost emaciated body hangs from its armpits from two metal rods protruding from the wall. One immediately feels the urge to walk up and give him some assistance in getting down off the pegs but everyone seems to have resisted the temptation. The incredible detail and accuracy of the body right down to the smallest imperfections, such as the dry skin on his elbow, and the pores on his skin, is enough to send chills down the spine of even the most hardened individual yet one can’t help but be curious as to the why and how of his plight. Far from a lifeless body, “The Hanging Man” seems to be in the process of moving himself as indicated by the position of his fingers which are pressed against the wall. It is this anticipation of movement that causes the viewer to struggle to look away for fear of missing a crucial moment in what seems to be an epic struggle. Contradictory to the glimmer of hope the seemingly imminent movement provides, is the overall pose, which is reminiscent of Christ on the cross, perhaps a hint of what is to come.
“The Hanging Man” forces us to experience human interaction on a purely visual level, isolating the physical from all the other ways humans express their feelings, emotions and personality. It is through this purely visual interaction that we realise how much we can learn about someone just by looking at them, but that’s not the primary motive of this sculpture. The success of “The Hanging Man” lies in it’s ability to involve us in an experience of what it would feel like to be isolated from human contact and not be able to experience the everday human interaction that we often take for granted.
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.