by: Ronald Pennell, 2012 medium: cast bronze size: 58 x 56mm cast by: Lunts Castings issue: edition: price: £n/a (member)
description: The medals that Ronald Pennell (b.1935) has made for BAMS have grappled with questions of survival, especially in the world of nature: in 1985 A Tree for Me saw the last tree of England being carted off in a wheelbarrow pushed by a small man menaced by a serpent; in 1992 A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush – But Will They Survive? speaks for itself. In bronze or in glass – for Pennell is an acclaimed glass engraver – a touch of irony often gives great impact to his work. His work, he writes, 'is to do with states of innocence, also influenced by world myths, legends and literature'.
Perhaps at the moment survival is very much on Pennell’s mind, for his life was saved last year by doctors at the Royal United Hospital Bath, when he had a near-fatal heart attack. This prompted him to return to medal-making, and as a token of thanks to the hospital he made two medals called Angel Doctors Saving Hearts, one of which was shown in the FIDEM exhibition in Glasgow. Now, for BAMS, he has created Darcy with a Pet Hen / Bird Lovers, which is available only in a limited edition of twenty. The reverse is intentionally ambiguous. The obverse is a portrait of Darcy, a friend and neighbour, holding her pet hen Phoebe. Phoebe is also a survivor, the product too of a safe pair of caring hands: 'She is an ex-battery hen, one of a pair given a chance at a beautiful new life as a family pet. She is a bit slow in her old age, but friendly and much cherished.' Aside from the ‘slow’ part, BAMS feels much the same way about Ronald Pennell, for he has created this medal, he says, 'as a token of my appreciation to everyone I know at BAMS for encouraging me to find the time for medallic art. I also want to show my appreciation to the University of Wolverhampton for their great interest and support over more than thirty years, and for my current position as an Honorary Professor'. He has waived his royalties for the medal in order to support the educational projects undertaken by BAMS.
Pennell’s works in glass are in too many museum collections to mention them all, but among them are the French National Collection of Contemporary Art, Paris, and the Museum of Modern Art, Hokkaido. In February 2012, at Contemporary Applied Art, London, Pennell won the Best in Show prize, for a piece that the British Heart Foundation felt showed joy in its making. Pennell says: 'Little did they know with just how much joy.'