What does it mean to be an artist? How does the frequency and quality of what we produce in the world define us as people stumbling about in this crazy game we call life? I don't think I or anyone else can define that for you but that doesn't mean we should stop searching for the answers to these questions.
Meet My Dog Sighs out of the UK and he hopes that he can make your quest a bit smoother with his impactful crafts, murals, and paintings.
While many of us are often taken aback by his peculiar moniker (he saw the phrase scribbled on a fence in his youth and adopted it as his sobriquet), self-discovery is an integral part of his artistic message.
As he enjoys pieces that force the observer to turn inward and reflect on the nature of themselves through a medium of expression, he likes to transmit these ideas into his own creations. The somewhat abstract contents of his vivid pieces make for an excellent vehicle in which his viewers can project their own meaning.
After years of sharing his work for free via the Free Art Friday movement, he has began to find more of himself through sharing and understanding. Here, he let's us in on his process and intentions as a creative.
Prox: I’m quite curious about how you view the streets themselves as a living, breathing entity. What is it about cityscapes that meshes well with your artistic vision? How do they breathe life into your creations?
MDS: I think we take the streets we walk down for granted a little bit. They all too easily become a vehicle to get from a to b in our busy life but if you slow down and open your eyes, they can become a visual treat. Delicate decay; rusted metal and peeling paint, shiny glass, and polished concrete. They're places we share yet we're generally on our own when we're in that environment. By placing my work on the street I have the opportunity to interact with people on a very personal level. With my crushed can project, inanimate objects and junk reflect elements of the human condition back at the finder. In contrast to the lack of interaction of our normal experience on the street, the finder’s status quo is thrown off kilter and is forced into some emotional connection with a baked bean tin.
With my Everyman image (appropriated from a child I used to teach) I take a familiar vehicle (the archetypal kids drawing) and place it on the streets; often draped in melancholy or loss desperately trying to connect with the viewer on an emotional level.
We all feel it; love, loss, desperation, loneliness. My Everyman and my cans just mirror it.
Prox: From a philosophical and introspective standpoint, why have you chosen to use eyes in much of your work? What do you want us (or yourself for that matter) to see?
MDS: It was never a conscious decision to paint eyes. My closed eye cans developed into open eye cans, and one day I decided to change the scale and translate the hard lost stare of the eyes on the can onto something larger. In my studies I began to notice my own reflection in the eye I was looking at. A fascinating reflection, hidden deep inside the eye I was gazing into. I realized, with a little playing, I could explore different narratives within the reflection. A sort of bouncing story which threw up a barrage of questions and possibilities. I love art that poses more questions than answers.
Having the opportunity to play with scales adds a whole new dimension now that I've been given the opportunity to play the mural game too. A 13 story single eye really stops you in your tracks and bares down on you.
A lot has been written about the psychology of eye images. People's behaviour changes, and of course there's the "window into the soul" thing. Eyes are powerful. Just ask a woman with a bag full of makeup.
Prox: How do you focus some of the more chaotic elements that are present in this kind of art?
MDS: The street art aesthetic I love seems to marry perfection with chaos.
The London Police's perfectly executed super clean Lad character on a grotty peeling painted door is a thing of beauty to me.
Artists like HERAKUT marry a loose, almost haphazard, line and dribbling paint splashes with pin perfect almost photorealistic elements, layering up a chaotic energy with touches of refinement; and I suppose that’s what I'm trying to do with my own work. Planting elements of realism amongst chaos and getting the viewers brain to sort and process it and fill in the gaps.
Prox: Finding something and being lost were prevalent talking points during your excellent TEDx presentation. How does one’s search aid them along their journeys as artists and human beings?
MDS: I think being open to new possibilities helps greatly. To be too focused can often blinker us. Learning to look for something in the least expected place can lead to exciting discoveries. That's why I like putting my work on the street. Anything that gets us to stop and question our everyday existence is a good thing. That's the function of art.
You don't just have to look for the “big" things. If you do, you may miss the smaller but equally beautiful and wondrous smaller things. In life and art.
Prox: You’re a big fan of music. Can you tell us some of your favorite go-to albums, artists, and tracks? How does music influence how and what you paint?
MDS: Music is the first thing that's switched on when I'm in the studio (even before the kettle) and I'd never consider painting a wall without my headphones or speakers. Music is such a pure artform and has the ability to lift the soul. With my work being quite melancholic, it's fairly unsurprising that I'm drawn to that sort of music. Epic soundscapes of Ludovico Einaudi, Mogwai, and Twilight Sad or the heart wrenching lyrics of Dashboard Confessional or The Wedding Present.
Prox: Piggy backing off the last one, do you have any pieces that are dedicated to or heavily influenced by a particular musical work?
MDS: I had a show with Gallo Gallery in Turin, Italy a few years ago where the title of the show was named after the old 80's Fun Boy Three song Our Lips Are Sealed (I think The Go-Gos released it in the states) with the title of each piece being a part of the lyrics from the song. As you walked through the exhibition the titles were in order so you'd be unknowingly singing the entire song as you walked around reading the titles. It just popped up on my iPod when I was painting the works and became an earworm. I'd have it playing on loop for days and through listening to it while I paint it sort of absorbs itself into the work.
Prox: Any artists, books, music, or movies/shows you’d like to recommend?
Prox: Could you give some information about any upcoming projects?
MDS: I’ll be in Miami for Art Basel in December painting walls and showing some new work with Next Street Gallery at SCOPE Art Show. Then it's head down getting busy for a new solo show (my first in two years) at Vertical Gallery in Chicago in February called Days and Nights and the Places In between.
Prox: Final Thoughts?
MDS: You didn't ask me the origin of my name. It's a first for an interview. Thank you.
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