Having recently introduced John Wrigglesworth (PP 17.1.14) by way of a short profile and a few snaps of his wonderful work, we now present here the full interview and some visual glimpses into his carefully considered and rather magical world.
Often people want a change in their home, but don’t know what to do, and don’t think they have the money for an interior stylist. They may really want to have someone come in and decorate, but think it’s something only rich people can afford.
As a sculptor, what I’m good at is being able to help people see how to use the things they already have. I respect exactly what they’ve got and recognize what they love. I do not want to make a place that's just like another fashion plate. You can see that with my own lounge room, I use things that have a history. I like to give people an opportunity to think “Wow… I didn’t realize it could look like this!”
It’s a bit like a makeover show, where you might spend a bit of money finding new pieces that are additions, but intrinsically you’re just using existing objects. I clean the room out first, then bring all the furniture and objects back in with my eye, to see what we might think about each placement. Usually rooms have just grown into what they are through people not having enough time to stand back and look at them properly.
Well, I look at what’s really necessary. Some things bring the whole room down, and don’t do justice to other elements that are absolutely stunning. There are people who are frustrated with how things look, and want a change but do not know what to do. Like so many people, I haven’t got a million bucks, so I’ve got to do something with what I’ve got, and think about how I can make it different.
This is still using your art. A friend of mine, who’s known me since I was about 13, says that I always end up living inside my art. The houses I create create become a piece of artwork in themselves. They do this by offering a reflection of who I am and what I like. I started off having to work with just one room, so I have a good sense of how to fit a lot into a room without it being overdone.
Yes, I worked in props and set dressing for about twenty years, in Australia and also in Europe. That’s an eye thing. But personally, I just find that I cannot be in a room and do my art work if I feel that things need organising around me. Cleanliness, simplicity and organization are essential to my calm. If I’m working on something for a few weeks I can let stuff go everywhere, but before I start the next job I have to clean it all up and put everything back where it belongs. So I know where it is, and everything I might need is easy to access. It has to be practical because of limited space.
Taste is secondary. The first question is 'What place did art fill in my life?' Why did I need to be an artist? The idea of taste and design is part of the education that happens as a result of an interest in art.
When you grow up in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne as a gay boy, knowing from the age of four or so, that you are gay, you are separate and you are on your own, you become someone who sits in your bedroom, day dreaming and wanting to turn that day dreaming into something. The only thing I could turn it into was a drawing. It’s an intrinsic part of who I am. I rail against people who think that mentioning their sexuality is somehow disconnected from other elements of their life. When I was young there were no gay clubs, no gay newspapers, it was still illegal, you were a pariah, you knew that you were bad, and I shouldn’t keep saying you as if it were separate from me, but I feared people finding out, I feared my father, I feared being unloved, I feared all of those things, so it was a massive motivation for introspection.
Art was the only way to get that introspection out. So for me the art wasn’t necessarily a God-given talent. I think all human beings have the capability be taught to write or draw, given the time and the right environment. I don’t believe in a separatist image of artists as somehow elite or special. What makes artists different is another story. But all human beings are, or at least can be, creative. We just need to be placed in the environment that encourages that, and for me my sexuality was a very powerful impetus to generate art.
There are subconscious influences that are an accumulation of years of looking at magazines, landscapes and interiors. We have a response to these things, and we build up a residual of memories of things we like and we don’t like, and that builds our taste. So, my own design involves a mixture of visual placement, shapes, colours but also environmental interests. For example I try not to go out and buy new materials, so the use of second hand and recycled objects determines the end product. It’s obviously going to be very different to going into a generic super-store and buying new things. So there are all different influences, depending on the relevance of them to what is actually being worked on and the ability to find appropriate raw materials.
An awareness of shape is vital, but I never plan the design first. I ask how the things I already have can create the design. If things are placed in a certain way they, the art that is, becomes something beyond what the practitioner originally conceived. I’ve never tried to control the end result beyond what is practical.
You can bring an additional element in and end up creating something different to your original intention, but actually far better. I think Matisse talked about colour in that way - You put a colour down and then you put another colour down, and if these colours don’t work together in the way you wanted them to, you don’t get rid of one of the colours. What you do is add a third, to join them. I think that can work with shapes and design.
It’s not until you’ve got it all in there… I put each item back into a room, one by one, and as the next piece goes in and settles somewhere that will change the dynamic. The last piece might go somewhere different, based on practicality as well. It’s a bit like how you treat your back yard, and work with it as it changes over time. I let the grass grow for a while. It can become shaggy and horrible, and sometimes you don’t care that it’s not fully watered, or pristine and green, but then during winter when it is lovely and lush, you clean it all up, and stand back, look at it anew and realize ‘Gee, that’s nice!’
John’s work has been exhibited and sold in London, Hong Kong and Melbourne.
In 2011 he contributed an original, hand-made piece to the Lorne Sculpture Exhibition, in coastal Victoria. This giant orb called ‘Dogma’ was two metres in diameter. It was inspired by the smaller work, pictured above right. John specializes in unique, one-of-a-kind, handmade works utilizing materials with texture, depth and soul.
John takes private commissions and can be contacted via email: firstname.lastname@example.org