Mr. Penfold is back and brilliant as ever, in Norwich for the first time since the regionally ground-breaking “Art in My Mouth” group show hosted by the locally based Moosey Art collective. “False Advertising” is a fresh culmination of abstract work based on Penfold’s long-term muse, the humble pre-rolled cigarette.
The first question we had to ask was, of course, why cigarettes? Penfold described the exact moment when he hit upon fresh inspiration when working on some of his traditional geometric designs; “It all started with a series of abstract paintings I was doing about a year or so ago. I was drawing these shapes that are effectively a traveling circle.” The actual lightbulb moment, however, was in fact the result of a simple error. “One day I was doing one of these paintings and I messed up the base drawing by putting in an extra circle, it must have been a late one the night before, and I could see this cigarette image hiding in there. So I started turning them into twisted, bent up cigs.”
After that there was no stopping him and the little bent butts soon began appearing regularly in his work; “It was once I had this shape that really pleased me and was super fun to draw, I started getting obsessed with the colour I could use to represent the separate parts of the cigarette. That’s when I really got into idea behind the cigarette, like why is the filter that colour and who… WHO designed the cigarette?! I still don’t know that one.”
But with the growing taboo around the simple smoke, how does Penfold expect the public to react to the nicotine filled batons which were once a pub culture staple yet now are relegated to drizzle covered, barely lit smoking shelters around England? “What I’m trying to do is to bypass the habit and the fact it kills you and focus on the image, because for me, it’s a timeless, classic piece of design.” He hopes that visitors can see this too; “I think some people will respond to the work with a huff because of the subject, and I think some will appreciate the image for what it is.”
The exhibition opens at the Moosey Art Gallery in Norwich tomorrow night at 6.30pm and, alongside the selection of Penfold’s art, will also feature the launch of a new and unique Penfold x SHhhh collection, freebies, beer and much more.