Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Alternate Opinion on Wigan

July 9, 2007

I’ve been following Mr Willard Wigan for a number of years. I first encountered him strolling through the famous Birmingham Bazaars on the South Bend. He was just a street artist then, and living one meal at a time. So personally I am delighted to see him doing well and receiving some much deserved praise.

But a good point question is raised in the previous post: what is the value of his art? My comrade asserts that these micro-sculptures “have no inherent value or meaning, and have only attracted attention because they are very small.” Is this an accurate judgment?

First we might ask if his work ought to be considered art at all. While creating tiny things is certainly impressive, they must be imbued with some kind of spirit if we are to call them art. Or if they lack spirit, there must be some reason. How does Mr Wigan work? What inspires him? Why does he choose his subjects?

If we look to Mr Wigan for answers, we are likely to be left disappointed. Wigan, who is learning disabled, seems to be interested only in his work’s most obvious feature — its smallness. When asked to name his favorite piece, he responds: “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, just because I had to fit so much into the head of a pin.” As for his most challenging piece? “That would be the mini model of The Last Supper.” For its controversial subject matter? No — because “It had TWELVE disciples and Jesus… [it] was a real challenge.”

Wigan’s art, if we take his word for it, is merely a challenge, a feat of dexterity. In other words, Wigan fashions himself not as an artist but as an artisan.

But I’m of the opinion that an artist is not the authority of his own art. And while my comrade finds much to be desired in the quality of Wigan’s micro-figurines, I find much to be pondered in his decision to work on the microlevel generally.

Wigan’s subjects are always iconic, and for that reason they are more effective as representations than actual materials. Take this work for instance:

Here I am less interested in the quality of the work than in the event it depicts, a classic fight between two great fighters. The stage is set, flashbulbs going off, money being exchanged, but all in this “microworld,” almost invisible to the human eye. This is a world where a sneeze could blow away civilizations, a wrong step could crush castles, and a routine dusting could be some accidental genocide. The weird perspective is enough to induce a kind of vertigo, a sense of confusion about our significance. Do we feel big because these events are so small? Or do we feel small because we identify with them? I’m reminded of David Lynch’s Lady in the Radiator, the toilet fruit from Rocko’s Modern Life, or the 3 Espers marching up Tetsuo’s pillow in Akira. Perhaps the definitive microworld is Swift’s Lilliput.

Ultimately then, I find Wigan’s work produces almost the opposite effect he has intended. His tiny things are meant to inspire, to show that great things come in small packages. Yet I believe Wigan has inadvertently tapped into a disconcerting and even disturbing world that plays on our fears of the very small. Hidden in his trite comments and his artwork’s kitschy appeal is a mind-bending technique that makes people — or at least me — shudder. It’s not the skilled craftsmanship but the creepy quality of his tiny sculptures that make them art.


Willard Wigan, micro-sculptor, micro-talent

July 9, 2007

Henry VIII, Willard Wigan


I recently came across Willard Wigan, a sculptor from the UK who achieved international acclaim through building some of the smallest works of art in world. He is short-listed for admission into the Order of the British Empire, and the entirety of his remaining ouvre has been purchased by tennis player-cum-art collector David Lloyd for a total of 22.5 million US dollars.

I wish Mr. Wigan the best, and respect his success, but in the end I think we all agree that he sucks.

The first indicator of his lack of talent is that this “purchase” was executed without particular prices defined for each work — Snow White and the Seven Dwarves wasn’t valued any higher or lower than Henry VIII and his wives. The collection was simply valued and sold at about US$321,600 per sculpture.

It follows that any Willard Wigan sculpture is as valuable as any other. And what follows from this is that they really only have one quality: their tiny-ness.

Looking at the pictures on his website, what first came to my attention was that Mr. Wigan’s work seems crude and childish. His Statue of Liberty is lopsided and appears ill or, at best, tired. His Thinker bears absolutely no resemblance to its inspiration. Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston look barely human, seeming more like lacquered insects losing an awkward fight against gravity.

In summary, Wigan’s sculptures are not visually appealing in any way, have no inherent value or meaning, and have only attracted attention because they are very small. Monks (Buddhist? I’m not sure) have been inscribing religious texts on grains of rice for millennia, and have reaped little to no reward save for a Travel Channel blurb and personal satisfaction. Mr. Wigan has become a millionaire by exploiting a skill that most people could master given a summer’s worth of work, and on top of this he flaunts his ability to lower his heart-rate through meditation before working. I believe the only thing he has lowered is his dignity.


July 8, 2007





Rainy Heritage, Work & Analysis

July 5, 2007

Rainy Heritage, Nikolas Basch
Rainy Heritage, Nikolas Basch
Click here to see fullsize image.

Hey everyone — just came back from the Museu d’Art in Bilbao and it was incredible. There was this one  work by Nikolas Basch (Scandinavian, I think Finnish?) that really caught my eye. So I did a little research and found a fascinating little excerpt by the art critic Ngutu Jenkins. Check it out!


(Excerpt from Ngutu Jenkins, “Symbols, Cymbals, and Senegal: The Influence of North African Music on the Art of the Third Millennium.” (Capetown Press: 2007), pp. 187-90.)

Rainy Heritage characterizes Nikolas Basch’s later movement, dubbed his “symbologist period” by some scholars. Basch himself wrote of his desire to “be blunt, heavy-handed, and to insult the ‘intel-allegiance’ of my audience.” Indeed, this work is saturated with crude symbols that “give themselves away like nickel-and-dime prostitutes.” Little wonder then that this transformative period in the artist’s career was initially received with disdain. To see the classically trained painter using such primitive methods was a source of discomfort for contemporary art critics.

Basch’s intention was, at least in part, “to be the Martin Luther of paint. To cut out the tongues of the critics, the art priests, and connect my art directly with my crowd. To produce something for which there are no words, only vibrations and intuitive understanding.” Yet in this aim he has most certainly failed, since even today critics still disagree about the meaning of Basch’s work & the significance of his symbols. Our tongues, it seems, remain safely intact.

In order to grasp the meaning of Rainy Heritage, we must first familiarize ourselves with the painting’s subject, seen at the bottom right. This man is believed to be Bernaldi G. R. Vâlençia, a Brazilian sculptor and friend of Basch. The evidence that this is Vâlençia extends beyond his clothing, which bears some similarity to the flag of Brazil. The colors of the rainbow are blue, green, red, and violet (BGRV), spelling out Vâlençia’s initials. This revelation is absolutely critical, and sheds more light on significance of the work’s title.

For it is heritage that is the real subject of the painting. The rainbow, like the flag, is an emblem of inherited existence. Vâlençia is wrapped up in the cloth of his country, but he also stands under the noumenon of his name. & Basch leaves little doubt as to how these influences impact his artist friend. Rain pours down on Vâlençia, whose helpless little palms are extended skyward. His body bloated with poison rain, we can almost see Vâlençia’s sticklike legs trembling under all that dead weight. The sight of him fills us with a mix of pity and disgust. Rainy Heritage is thus a lamentation of everything inherited, everything we are given at birth. Such an interpretation also gives more meaning to another work that Basch painted around the same time, entitled Happy Naked Man with Umbrella.

If this were all there is to Rainy Heritage, it would not have sold for $145 million in 2007. The lingering enigma to the painting is its form. Why did Basch choose such a crude style to express his point? Some critics maintain that such expression adds to the satirical nature of the painting. While I don’t disagree that his sloppy brushstrokes have a satirical effect, I hardly find it convincing that satire was the cause of the form. Rather, I believe Basch is actually trying to have us question the authenticity of the traditions under which Vâlençia is so utterly paralyzed. Could it be that country, name, & family are self-imposed constructions? Bootleg burdens? Were they real, perhaps they would be more realistic. Which brings us to the rain, anomalous in its totalitarian accuracy & rigid straightness. If anything is real, it is the rain – the downpour of human misery. But Basch wants us to question if Vâlençia is correct in ascribing it to heritage. & once we do that, we realize that the true source of rain is the cloud; an image so simple we had ignored it altogether. Thus Basch craftily leads us astray with his symbolism, and it is only after a great deal of erroneous pondering that we see the simple answer that was with us all along. The cloud is the truth; we know this because it is not a symbol. The rainbow and the clothing are lies; we know this because they are symbols.

& the nature of the cloud, the nature of truth? Basch gives us no answers in Rainy Heritage. But in this work we do see the germ of what would blossom into Basch’s greatest and final period, his arrival at “precise truth”. Rainy Heritage thus serves as a kind of bridge connecting Basch’s heavily sarcastic symbologist period to his ultimate and enlightened period. In this way, a thorough analysis of the painting can itself yield a tentative path to nirvana.