Oh hey, dog fans! An exhibition of canine sculptures is opening at Beach London tomorrow (December 4), called – imaginatively enough – ‘Dogs’.
Created by Wilfrid Wood, the humorous works range from wall hangings to dog busts and includes famous internet dogs like ‘Pig Dog’, the dog with the human face and Faith, the dog with two legs.
We took a trip behind the scenes at Wilfrid’s dog-filled studio to find out more about the exhibition.
Why did you decide to do a show on dogs?
‘I had a show a couple of years ago that I was quite pleased with, but it was basically a bit of everything I’d done in the five years before it. I think that some people came into the show and thought: “there’s a head there, there’s an animal there, there’s an upside-down figure over there… why is all this mixed up?” I decided to keep this one dead simple – and what could be more simple than dogs?’
How did you give the dogs personality?
‘What I’ve tried to do is exaggerate what is almost “unexaggeratable”: the variety of dog types. Hopefully it gets the most funny or slightly peculiar character out of each one. I’ve also humanised them. In real life you hardly see the whites of dog’s eyes at all. I’ve given them more whites and have moved their eyes round a little bit more to the front to give them a more humorous human characteristic.’
Why do you think people love dogs so much?
‘Dogs are a bit of a craze at the moment. Maybe it’s an east London hipster thing, but it’s definitely an internet thing. There are so many dogs “jumping around on beds” and “being friends with snakes”. Because we spend so much time staring at screens, lots of things are trying to get back to physical reality at the moment.’
Was the work a reaction to the internet craze?
‘A lot of it is, just because the internet is so ubiquitous. I would have thought that anyone who’s producing visual stuff is going to be influenced by the internet because it’s the ultimate reference tool.’
Do you think focussing on dogs has made your work more accessible?
‘I think sometimes people are slightly baffled by my stuff and a little bit uncomfortable, which is of course intentional. It’s nice to do something that’s immediately tangible. I want it to be “pop”, but hopefully there are a few more layers. It’s not high concept, but I’ve got to avoid it being like those sort of mass-produced dog mugs.’
How have you tried to add in those extra layers?
‘I suppose some of the dogs are ridiculous and a little bit sinister. Someone who’s got a labrador, and really loves labradors in a very straightforward way, might think my one with a massive lolling tongue is not a total homage to the dog, it has a bit of a “nudge”.’
Do you think it is the ‘ridiculousness’ of dogs that’s made them so popular?
‘Yes I do. And, even though they are domesticated, there’s a tiny touch of danger. They will bite you if really goaded. Actually, it’s funny going from west London to east London because there’s lots of trendy dogs in east London like French bulldogs and tough dogs like Staffies. Then you go into west London and there are soppy dogs like King Charles spaniels, lapdogs and practical dogs like sheep dogs. You don’t get them in east London at all.’
Do you watch lots of dog videos?
‘Yes, I can’t help it. There’s a stupid page I’ve joined on Facebook which is constantly showing me videos of dogs being friends with other animals. It’s only simple animal cuteness but I still click on it without a second thought.’
And you’ve not burnt yourself out dog-wise now?
‘I don’t think it’s possible! There’s just so much mileage in dogs. They’re are so emotional – they wag their tails and mope – and its both funny and touching for humans. It’s the emotional connection that’s moreish and it’s something I hope I’ve communicated in this exhibition.’
See the cutest pet dogs in London here.
By Kate Lloyd