Some figurative sculptors carve their artworks from unforgiving stone, while others carefully morph the human form from soft blocks of clay. Artist Jonty Hurwitz begins with over a billion computer calculations before spending months considering how to materialize his warped ideas using perspex, steel, resin, or copper.
Born in Johannesburg in 1969, Hurwitz now lives and works in London where he’s somewhat of a renaissance man, focusing both on his artwork and micro-loan website Wonga which he co-founded in 2007. His anamorphic sculptures rely on scans of objects (hands, faces, frogs) that are then distorted digitally and fabricated, but when placed in front of a cylindrical mirror the projected reflection reveals the original object. Still, other works deal with pixelated or sliced human forms that are only viewable from a single perspective. A scientist at heart, Hurwitz explained to me that his artwork is his way of “expressing calculations visually,” and also allows him to experiment with cutting-edge manufacturing and fabrication technologies. Of the more mind-bending anamorphic pieces, he shares:
For the anamorphic pieces its an algorithmic thing, distorting the original sculptures in 3D space using 2πr or πr3 (cubed). Much of it is mathematical, relying on processing power. There is also a lot of hand manipulation to make it all work properly too as spacial transformation have a subtle sweet spot which can only be found by eye. Generally I will 3D scan my subject in a lab and then work the model using Mathematica or a range of 3D software tools. I think the π factor is really important in these pieces. We all know about this irrational number but the anamorphic pieces really are a distortion of a “normal” sculpture onto an imaginary sphere with its centre at the heart of the cylinder.
I strongly urge you to watch the two embedded videos above to get a sense of how remarkably precise each artwork appears up close. What I’ve shown you here is honestly just the tip of the iceberg; please head on over to his website, Facebook, Saatchi profile, and Youtube to see more of his work. He’ll also have a piece on display at the Kinetica art show in London in February. The photography above was taken by Niina Keks, Otto Pierratto, Richard Ivey, Alex Brenner and Jonty Hurwitz and provided courtesy of the artist.
Update: If you’d like to read more about the history of anamorphosis in art, Wikipedia has a great article, tracing the known roots of the technique back to a 1485 artwork by Leonardo da Vinci. You can also explore the anamorphism tag here on Colossal.
Update 2: In reaction to some of the commentary online regarding the historical context of Hurwitz’ work, the artist shares with us via Facebook: “I have always been torn between art and physics. In a moment of self-doubt in 2003, I wondered into the National Portrait Gallery and stumbled across a strange anamorphic piece by William Scrots (Portrait of Edward VI, 1546). Followed shortly down the isle by The Ambassadors (Hans Holbein, 1533). My life changed forever. I rushed home and within hours was devouring the works of Escher, Da Vinci and many more. In a breath I had found “brothers” in a smallish group of artists spanning 500 years with exactly the same dilemma as me. Within two months I was deep in production of my first work. My art rests on the shoulders of giants, and I am grateful to them.”
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