Thursday, November 19, 2009

An Interview with Toby Wiggins RP

On Monday afternoon I spotted a tweet on Twitter announcing that Toby Wiggins had won the Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize - in advance of the formal announcement at the Private View on Monday evening.

I was very surprised. For me, it had the potential to spoil what should be a very special moment in the life of any artist and in my opinion showed complete disrespect for all the shortlisted artists. I've stood next to artists at announcements and have seen their reactions. It's a moment no "journalist" should ever ruin for the sake of a bit of traffic!

I alerted Parker Harris, who organise the Prize, to the naughty tweet. Like me they were shocked that anybody could behave in such an unprofessional manner. It turned out that - as per normal - a Press Release had been given to those print publications with longer lead times prior to publication with an embargo on the release of the information until after the formal announcement at the Private View.

One can only conclude that a so-called "journalist" (I think the correct terminology is "a complete twit") got sight of the press release and decided to advance their career and/or provide 'a scoop' by leaking the news about who had won. That they did so on the Twitter page of a leading online art journal - in advance of the Private View and the formal announcement to all the shortlisted artists - brings absolutely no credit to the journal concerned. I'm not 'outing' the online journal concerned but Twitterers will be able to work out which one was the offender.

I wanted to interview Toby about winning the prize - but also now wanted to know whether the Twit on Twitter had 'spoilt' the big moment of the announcement. Here's my interview with Toby Wiggins - and the good news is that I needn't have worried! :)

Was it a complete surprise or had you heard about the leak?
I turned up to the PV thinking that I had been short listed but never expecting to win. I assumed that someone - Parker Harris or the Painter-Stainers people would have told the winner in advance so they could consider a few words to say and make sure they turn up! Apparently they prefer the element of surprise. I was shocked and very happy. Happily shocked.
What is the painting about and how did it came about?

(top) Suspended animation by Toby Wiggins
copyright the artist / photo copyright Katherine Tyrrell
Perhaps I can tell you in a few years time.

The painting is of a man in a suit hanging in space. The space is ambiguous, the figure motionless.

He is foetal in pose, it is the position assumed by the body under stress, under attack. It is defensive, cowered in submission. I have seen it in the bog bodies such as Lindow Man in the BM, but also in documentary photography from recent conflicts.

The space is undefined, rough marks and washes of paint stain a piece of canvas, but could also be describing an interior or even the pale rendering of a view through to the exterior world from within a claustrophobic space.

The viewpoint is uncertain, but he seems to be fixed between architectural objects- struts, beams, panels, planes and yet the painted surface exposes itself and breaks the illusion.

It is illuminated with a pale light, dawn or dusk, wintery. Tones are close and colour is desaturated, reminiscent of the dusty corner of a London street after hours or a bombed out war zone.

I feel that the man is fixed, frozen; suspended literally and metaphorically. The figure and its unknowable location in time and space should be slightly unsettling to look at. disoriented almost dream like. The figure is the soldier, the civilian, drunkard, addict, sleeper, victim, corpse or just a solitary person plucked from the world.

It is intended to work quietly on the viewer and in large part it was made from observation from life.
How will the prize affect you?
After long periods of working on commissions and spending time developing ideas in paint, it is a massive boost to be selected, let alone judged worthy of a prize, by such a panel of serious persons in the art world. People whose judgement I trust as experts in their field and who have an extensive understanding of painting. To think that they liked this work or were curious about it, or appreciated just something about it is a huge thing and gives me confidence to continue pursuing such ideas which invariably involve a great deal of uncertainty.

The money is also very important, it buys a lot of whisky and cigarettes!
Many thanks to: Toby for the interview and Parker Harris for their co-operation.

Note about Toby Wiggins - for more details see
Toby Wiggins Biography/CV

  • 1991-1994 - RA Diploma in Painting, Royal Academy Schools
  • 1991-1994 BA Hons Fine Art, First Class, Falmouth School of Art and Design
Prior Awards
  • 2007 University of Wales Prize(Print Originals, Mall Galleries)
  • 2006 Elected member Royal Society Portrait Painters
  • 2006 BP Travel Award (NPG)
  • 2006 Changing Faces Prize (RSPP)
  • 2005 Prince of Wales Drawing Prize ( RSPP )
  • 1998 Royal Institute prize for Painting
  • 1997 Royal Bank of Scotland prize for Drawing
  • 1996 Royal Institute prize for Drawing

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