Jonathan Yeo

from virtual to reality




Jonathan’s large-scale bronze sculptural self-portrait entitled Homage to Paolozzi (Self Portrait) marked his first foray into sculpture and represents an evolution in the tradition of creating self- portraiture, produced by using cutting-edge technology.


This is the first sculpture to be designed with innovative virtual reality software and then realised in bronze as part of a major exhibition at the Royal Academy in London. The exhibition, From Life, examines how artists’ practice of making art from life is evolving as technology opens up new ways of creating and visualising artwork.


For over 18 months, Jonathan experimented with various innovative technologies related to image making, including virtual reality and advanced 3D scanning. Through a partnership with Google Arts and Culture, Yeo collaborated with Google’s engineers on their Tilt Brush software, which lets users paint in a 3D space using virtual reality technology. Yeo also worked with leading optical company OTOY, whose pioneering technology is used by leading visual effects studios in Hollywood including George Lucas and Warner Bros. Using their advanced LightStage scanner, a highly detailed 3D scan of Yeo was created and then imported into Google’s Tilt Brush software. In a ‘virtual life room’, Yeo was able to create a virtual self-portrait based on this digital scan. With the help of Google’s VR lab in San Francisco, Yeo’s virtual creation was 3D printed from the Tilt Brush software. It was then cast into bronze by Pangolin Editions, one of the world’s leading sculpture foundries in Gloucestershire, enabling his virtual brushstrokes to be captured in 3D and then realised in sculpture.

This marks a new approach to creating self-portraits since, as for the first time, Yeo has produced works derived from three-dimensional scans in virtual reality rather than looking in a mirror or working from photographs. By making solid structures based precisely on the kind of gestural marks which painters would normally use on canvas, this platform opens the door to an entirely new process, both for artists already working in three dimensions and those, like Yeo, will little or no previous experience of sculpture.

The piece is named after sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi, in whose former studio in Chelsea Jonathan is based.

Homage to Paolozzi (Self Portrait).jpg

 “As someone who has always wanted to work in three dimensions but never learnt how to do it in the traditional way, it is exciting to have helped create a new process which could probably best described as a hybrid of painting and sculpture. The reason to use self- portraiture was to demonstrate how you could employ 3D scanning to look at yourself in a way that hasn’t been possible until now. What’s exciting is that the combination of this, along with the latest virtual reality and 3D printing technologies, is potentially a new way of making sculpture and one that might inspire other artists from a range of disciplines to have a go too. I hope these pieces not only show how artists can make use of new technology in unexpected ways, but also offer a speculative glimpse of how we all might use them in the future”

Jonathan Yeo


LISTEN to Jonathan speaking to John Wilson about this innovative work, on the BBC 4 Front Row Programme

Read a Q&A with Jonathan here on the Google Arts & Culture website


For exhibition information