THROUGH THE EYE
OF A NEEDLE
|Wigan's sculptures of Snow White and
may not be able to see it, but this is the work of a world-famous
sculptor, who creates pieces so small they are almost invisible to
the naked eye. After years of developing his technique, Willard Wigan
chats with Inside Out about his love for all things miniature.
It's not every day you visit an art gallery only to find
the exhibition is visible only through the lens of a microscope, but art
enthusiasts visiting Birmingham's The Artlounge are set to be very surprised.
In an exhibition by world-renowned microsculptor Willard
Wigan, tiny sculptures no bigger than a pinhead are on display underneath
gleaming perspex domes, set on a plinth with high-powered microscopes
to bring them into focus to the naked eye.
a microscope to go about his intricate work|
Among the pieces on display are reproductions of landmarks
such as Tower Bridge, and scenes of Jesus Christ and The Last Supper,
with each individual figure no bigger than an eyelash or a human hair.
At less than a hundredth of an inch tall, it's painstakingly
Willard has been developing his technique for 40 years
and has sculpted pieces from gold, carbon fibre, nylon and even a grain
He says it takes approximately one to two months working
in total solitude at his studio in Jersey to complete an individual piece.
"The stillness of it is very important - you have
to control the whole nervous system, you have to work between the heartbeat
- the pulse of your finger can destroy the work," explains Willard.
"That's when the real concentration has to come
out - mind, body and soul has to give in order to do this."
inspiration came from his childhood obsession|
Willard's fascination with all things miniature began
in his schooldays, when he developed an interest in the smaller things
He says, "Call me eccentric, I suppose, but when
I was little I had a fascination for ants so I set about making houses
for them. I got obsessed with miniature things."
It's obviously paid off - Willard is now one of the world's
most revered micro-miniaturists, with some of his pieces selling for upwards
Veejay Lingiah, Managing Director of The Artlounge, said,
"I think one of the beauties of Willard's work is that it crosses
all cultural boundaries.
"No matter what language you speak or where you're
from, you can't help but be amazed by his work"
Real or illusion?
|"You have to control the whole nervous system,
you have to work between the heartbeat - the pulse of your finger
can destroy the work."|
But Willard's work is not without its sceptics. He says,
"A lot of people look at it and think 'is it a trick?'
"You get them checking the microscopes to see if
there is any illusion. To me that's a compliment."
It may be a compliment to the artist, but his work is
no illusion, and we've got the proof.
Microsurgeon Dr Bartley McNeela gave one of Willard's
prized pieces, a delicately-carved African elephant on the head of a pin,
the professional once-over.
"It is very impressive work. I don't know if I even
get to that level in my job! It's very impressive indeed."
And it looks like the buyers are happy, with one satisfied
customer saying, "If you try to tell someone that this guy's done
the Last Supper through the eye of a needle people just look at me like
"I thought 'I've just got to have one of these pieces.'
What I'm going to do with it I don't know - I'm afraid to drop it, that's
all I can say, I'd never find it again!"
Having sold out all 12 pieces of his first exhibition,
it's back to the drawing board for Willard, who literally has the world
in the palm of his hand.
"It's fantastic. When people buy my work it is a
piece of my soul, a piece of my misery which I went through to do it.
"Everybody's happy - I've introduced people to my
world, the world of Willard Wigan, the world that we don't think exists."
Willard's exhibition can
be found at The Artlounge, 25 Wharfside Street, The Mailbox, Birmingham,
B1 1XL. Opening times Monday - Saturday 10am - 8pm, Sunday 10am -
5pm. Adults £3.95, U16s/NUS/OAP £2.95. Call 0121 643 2212
for further details.