We spent yesterday evening at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery. At the top of the stairway there awaits a pack of dogs often associated with status on the streets of Britain. ‘Devil dogs’, the tabloids call them. These detailed large scale drawings depict a Pit Bull Terrier and a Staffordshire Bull Terrier plus other animals, including a chimpanzee and a mouse, with funny little asides scrawled on the paper. Alongside the Pit Bull drawing it says ‘Marley had worked his way through all his toys, the sofa and two armchairs, now he was looking for a new challenge’ and on another ‘Tyson’s standing in the local community had taken a nosedive since the incident with the beagle from next door’. These striking images are the work of local artist Gary Wiggins and along with the work of Alison Tootell form the Status and Dereliction exhibition at the Harris. I wanted to find out more…
Who are you and where are you based?
I am a recent Uclan graduate currently living and working in Preston. I graduated from Uclan with a B.A Fine Art in 2012, prior to this I studied Art at Preston College. I work from a studio at Oyston Mill.
How long have you been drawing ?
I’ve drawn and sketched on and off for years. I did a lot of drawing at Preston College then switched to painting at Uclan. It was only recently in my final year I decided to draw exclusively, prior to this I considered myself a painter.
How did Status and Dereliction, the exhibition at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, come about?
The Status and Dereliction exhibition came about through Steph Fletcher, Exhibitions Assistant at the Harris. Steph is responsible for exhibitions at the Harris and co-ordinated Status and Dereliction throughout. Prior to the offer to exhibit Steph made several visits to the studio at Oyston Mill to discuss my work/practice, viewed works in progress and looked through my portfolio to find suitable works to exhibit alongside Alison’s work.
Have you received any feedback?
The feedback from the preview night and the exhibition generally has been very positive. It’s difficult to know how your work will be received so any feedback is essential, whether it’s good or otherwise.
I imagine some pet owners would love to commission a drawing of their pet.
I’ve done pet portrait commissions for friends and friends of friends, Alsations, Jack Russells and the odd cat. I would be happy to take on more commissions. I know several Staffie owners so I get asked to do Staffies on a regular basis.
What fascinated you about dogs as ‘status symbols’ or ‘weapons’?
I own a Staffie so naturally I’m interested in anything to do with the breed and bull breeds in general. The question of why someone would intentionally train a dog to intimidate, injure and maim is an interesting one. This is something I try to respond to in my work.
What is it about animals that inspires you?
With the bull breeds the attraction is their size and physicality. Animals in general present a unique challenge to the artist, they all have their own individual personalities.
Do you work from real life or photographs?
For the last project I worked from photographs. If it’s a pet portrait I work from a combination of the two. I try to do as many drawings from life as possible.
Do you start with the image or words?
Sometimes an image will immediately suggest a title and a body of text, but more often than not the image comes first. I starting writing on my work as a way to organise ideas, put my thoughts on paper or it could be a written reminder to alter part of the drawing in some way. I don’t bother to erase these or the guide lines for drawing, I want people to see the creative process.
What or who else inspires you?
If I need inspiration I look at the work of other artists, William Kentridge or Max Beckmann for instance. Lately though friends have been inspirational.
Are you involved in the local art scene?
Unfortunately at the moment I am not as involved as I would like to be.
What have you been up to since you graduated from UCLAN last year?
I’ve been continuing the dog project and taken on a few pet portraits, then there’s the Harris stairway exhibition, also an exhibition at Gartang Arts centre later this year. I’ve been fortunate in being able to keep making art since leaving university.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m part way through a large Pit-bull drawing which once finished will be the culmination of the “my dog is my weapon” project.
For commissions or to contact the artist, Gary Wiggins, email email@example.com.
Status and Dereliction at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston until 29th June 2013