If you’ve recently found yourself outside a Dr. Martens store in London, Bristol or Manchester, staring intrigued and amazed at the illustrated characters clinging to the windows, you’ll know Mark Wigan’s work.
A seminal figure amongst the art scene of the 1980’s (Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat were acquaintances), Wigan’s hand painted, busy scenes are the latest subcultural artwork to be tapped by the bootmaker.
Part of the AW15 ‘Spirit of Buffalo’ campaign, the street artist has collaborated on a series of lace ups, leather bags and cotton tees, each furnished with a variation on the cartoon illustrations; and then there are those windows, the results of a seriously long tour of PA’s and in-store live ‘shows’.
We grabbed five with Mark to find out how it all came together.
How did the collaboration with Dr. Martens come about?
Dr. Martens have been aware of my artwork since the 1980’s when I was illustrating for magazines and painting murals in nightclubs in London, New York and Tokyo that documented and celebrated club culture. This led to Dr. Martens to approaching me for a collaboration to fall alongside their ‘Spirit of Buffalo’ campaign.
You've been on quite a journey with the brand this year, taking in Europe, Asia and the States. Any particular highlights?
The tour was great fun, live painting and customising people's boots, shoes and bags. In Busan, Korea I painted in the world’s largest department store for a Dr. Martens pop-up shop; it was great to go back to Harajuku, Tokyo – I have worked on many projects in Japan since the 1980s from nightclub interiors to set design for Japanese television – and quite a few old friends came along to see the live painting. It was my first visit to Singapore and I painted onto the glass windows of the Dr. Martens store and managed to check out Haw Parr Villa, an amazing Asian folklore theme park with stunning vibrantly painted dioramas; an inspirational visit.
What does Dr. Martens represent to you?
I started wearing them at school in the 1970’s and they have been an important part of my personal style ever since.
As an artist, how does it feel seeing your work in a commercial environment?
I have always reproduced my artwork on affordable T-shirts, limited edition screen prints and self published books of drawings, so I like the idea that people enjoy wearing the art and it is not just displayed in a gallery as an expensive commodity only affordable for the very rich.
How did you initially get involved with the visual art scene?
I studied at Hull School of Art and Design 1979 to ‘82 then moved to London, printing my drawings on T-shirts and selling them on Camden market. I also designed flyers for clubs which got my work seen and commissions followed, such as painting the Limelight Club in London in 1986 and travelling to NYC to paint the New York Limelight at Andy Warhol’s suggestion; the downtown art and music scene in 1980’s NYC was a huge inspiration and led me to create urban art around the world.
How has the scene changed since then?
The art world was booming in New York in the 80’s and the focus switched to London in the 90’s with the YBAs, more recently I have found the explosion in street art and its crossover into fine art interesting as this was an area I was exploring 30 years ago.
You’ve mentioned painting the clubs and you’ve also previously designed CD covers. How easy is it to translate your aesthetic to such a broad range of avenues?
My personal visual language is a kind of magical symbolism which tends to be flat, graphic, bold and colourful, so it lends itself to numerous media from animations and sculpture to set design and products such as Dr. Martens; large murals to characters created on a 3D printer, every media provides a new challenge and a new opportunity.
Finally, can you tell us about the Museum of Club Culture you run in Hull.
I founded The Museum of Club Culture five years ago with my partner, artist Kerry Baldry. It has a permanent collection of clubbing memorabilia and a changing programme of exhibitions including video and photography. We record people's oral history of clubs they visited and think it is important to preserve this social history. Since the 1920’s clubbing has been constantly changing and evolving, and we highlight the important contribution it has made to shaping modern culture.