When we think of street art or portraits, we usually think of one medium: paint. Sure, there are hundreds of materials you can use to create art anywhere, from rocks to spray paint to almost anything else. But one type of material we often don’t think of when it comes to portraiture is nails and thread. Yet one Dallas-based artist has done just that.
In his studio, Ukrainian artist Zenyk Palagniuk started hammering nails into a large piece of wood, intent on creating a portrait of American singer and actor Justin Timberlake. Wanting to get as accurate a look as possible, Palagniuk then set about winding string between every nail, “drawing,” as it were, Timberlake’s face across the board.
The entire process took Palagniuk over 200 hours of work and labour. Starting with a rough sketch, he then used over 24km of string across 13,000 nails to create the work. The end result is a pencil-sketch type portrait of Timberlake that has a unique depth and feel thanks to the unique materials.
The technique is very similar to another artist, Kumi Yamashita, but with one important difference: Yamashita only uses one width of string to create her pieces, where as Palagniuk uses different widths and will wrap around the same nail multiple times. Comparatively, Palagniuk’s work is sparser than Yamashita’s, probably because the string can stretch over more space.
Palagniuk’s piece shows us that the process and work itself has influence on the end result. While an impressive piece on its own, this Justin Timberlake portrait becomes something else once a bit of the process is revealed. While all art has a right to be admired for its craft, this portrait’s beauty and awe is in part from knowing what the artist physically did.
Of course, Jackson Pollack had similar notions about art and the process of making art. Many of his most popular abstract pieces are done by bending at the waist instead of the elbow or shoulder, which is most common for paintings. Pollack’s work is in part an exercise in making the labour of art known, rather than shrouding it in mystery.
While Palagniuk has remained fairly quiet on what his future plans may be, his piece has already become a sensation online, and there surely is a fascinating career ahead for this resourceful artist. His commitment and transparency is impressive for the young, Dallas-based artist, and his peeling back the layers of how art is made will surely fascinate spectators far into the future.