Hellooooo! My name is Christopher Hoggins and I am the creator of the Dweeblings. I have had to write various artist’s statements recently and had to try and explain exactly why a 44 year old man draws funny little big eyed creatures that are severely lacking in the ear and nose department. So where do I start? Well I’ll guess I should start at the very beginning. That’s a very good place to start. Well I was born is the summer of… Ok, maybe not that far back. The first Dweeblings appeared as doodles in my art history notebooks at Middlesex University at some point in 1996. They were among a menagerie of other made up creatures that I used to scrawl constantly whilst I should have been concentrating how to learn proper art speak. My Father had recently died and rather than deal with my emotions I did the typical blokey thing and buried myself in my work but it started to leak out in all sorts of ways, the odd doodles in my notebook being one of them. And there they stayed ’til about some time in about 2000, by which point I had got my degree, had a nervous breakdown, lost my home and found myself living in my mother’s house which was many hundreds of miles from my friends or indeed anyone I knew. For many years I barely left the house and as the internet back then was slower than a snail on valium so I spent and awful lot of time reading books (I even tried writing a couple), playing on my N64 and then my Gamecube and making art. It was around this time that the first ever painted Dweebling appeared. It was an a very large canvas and had a very long spindly neck and limbs. Now an important things to know about me is that I am more than a touch obsessive. Once I get an idea in my head, I need to go through every idea and every permutation of that idea. I am like one of those automated car factories that churns stuff out day and night and I have no idea where the off switch is. This meant that once I had done one painting I needed to do another, and another and… well you get the idea. I realised that these little creatures could do all the things I couldn’t. They could travel to Barcelona and check out Gaudi’s buildings whist I couldn’t face getting a bus into town or they could appear onstage as Elvis or the Sex Pistols when I couldn’t stomach the thought of going into the co-op to buy some milk. As time went by I got a little better and with the advent of broadband internet made the world a lot bigger for people like myself. Around 8 years and many painting later I eventually, with the help of the original IAPT trial, managed to finally move to my own flat by the sea in St Leonards. The move nearly killed me and I had a particularly awful time with finding out someone I thought was a friend actually wasn’t. Once things settled down though and I started to get out and see things, the Dweeblings also made themselves at home in their new environment. They started to reinterpret what they saw and started to develop a mind of their own. There were even a couple who didn’t smile…. During what were particularly bad years for me, I hunkered down and worked on two series of works on paper. Firstly, my own version of William Hogarth’s “A Rake’s Progress” solely using a ball point pen and secondly a complete set of illustrations to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. There was a political undercurrent to both these projects, brought about by the Con-Dem Government’s barbaric policies in respect to people with mental health issues, particularly in respect to their finances. Hogarth documented, amongst other things, crushing poverty whilst Alice in Wonderland describes perfectly what it is like to work out what is sane in a world which is profoundly mad. Over the last couple of years The Dweeblings have been appearing in portraits, first in a series entitled “The Kings and Queens of Kings Road” documenting the characters real and imagined around Kings Road St Leonards on Sea and more recently in a series of portraits in of the staff and service users of a local mental health support centre where I interviewed the sitters and told their stories in paint. Right now, I am working on a long term project documenting thehidden stories of places in East Sussexand turning them into paintings and colouring in books. And after that, who knows?
I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the notion of cognitive dissonance, which is that melty brain feeling you get when you try and hold two opposing ideas in your head at the same time. The example that is often bandied about is smoking cigarettes, we know they are extremely bad for us and yet people keep on doing it. There are a number of ways that human beings cope with this phenomenon, the first is to drop one of the ideas, in this case is would be to discount the weight of scientific proof telling you that cigarettes are bad for you and write it all off as so much scaremongering or to listen to that evidence and throw your cigarettes in the dustbin. Then there is the third option where we invent an explanation that deals with the problem in some other way like, “well, something is going to kill you.”, “my auntie Ethel smoked thirty a day and lived til she was 100” or “I don’t want to get old and senile anyway!” There is always some way that people will cognatively reframe something if they want to keep doing something that they know deep down is bad for them. It’s easier to believe anything, no matter how bizarre or how convoluted than it is to try and hold two opposing thoughts in our heads. We are all guilty of it to a certain extent, we know something to be true and all the evidence points to it and yet we refuse to face it, sometimes we don’t want to rock the boat, sometimes through fear of change, sometimes the consequences that the truth might stir up, sometimes out of sentimentality and sometimes out of love.
The lengths some people go to to not deal with a truth can be astounding, from people who ignore the abuse of their own children to hold on to a partner or parents who cover up the crimes of their children out of misplaced love. One way of rationalising a decision that causes cognitive dissonance is to normalise the problem thought by finding others who hold the same abnormal idea. From paedophile rings, hate groups to extremist political or religious groups, it’s easier to hold an idea of a bizarre nature when someone else is telling you that it’s ok. Sadly, in many cases it is an easier option than to sort your life out.
One of the most common ways of managing cognitive dissonance is to constantly defer choosing what thought to go with ad infinitum as many smokers do. They will give up tomorrow, a tomorrow that never comes, it works for other things too but as we stretch out that process and avoid making that decision we often find it gets made for us. Options close down, things blow up in our face, the consequences of decisions not made catch up with us and make themselves known in the most unpleasant of ways. Although in most cases those consequences are never that dire, suffering daily from the weight of all that brain noise is a harsh enough punishment on its own.
Oh! And there was a metal band with that name, they were rubbish!
Well, happy birthday to me! I just came back from my birthday lunch and I’m stuffed! I actually got given a plant! I’m staring at it in mild bemusement and hoping I don’t kill the poor thing. I took a photo of the rest of my presents earlier, all bought for me, by me and you could be forgiven for thinking that the haul of geekery was intended for someone half my age, possibly younger. I do wonder sometimes if there is a version of me in a parallel universe somewhere, one who wasn’t dragged about as an afterthought as a child who went into the family business as a plumber, all arsenal tattoos and Saturday afternoons full of beer and football. I wonder what he got for his birthday, pants and socks off the teenage children and maybe some grudging birthday sex from his wife.
I wonder what that Chris would make of what I got myself? Probably not much. But then again, that’s exactly what I’d think of his gifts. Mind you, sex would be nice. A birthday is always nicer for having a bit of howsyerfather in it somewhere. It may not seem like it, but there is a logical explanation for everything I bought myself. T shirts are always handy and don’t need ironing, the Japanese model kits are like mindfulness colouring but much cooler and the murakami art book is excellent reference, plus it gives me something to aspire to. Although to be fair, I have no excuse for Mario Amiibo , although it has unlocked a rather snazzy new outfit for my Nintendo avatar.
I feel that there is an important distinction between people who are childlike and people would are childish and I am always warey that when new people come into my world and see all the things with big eyes, the robots and brightly coloured stuff, that they make the distinction between the two.
Childish people are a nightmare, they are jealous, they tell lies and they do things with little concern for the consequences of their actions. They do things on the spur of the moment regardless of what will happen in the long run and they will happily tell numerous people exactly what they want to hear regardless of the damage it will cause because there is only that very moment and nothing beyond it. Childish people have a desperate need for attention and to be liked, they do anything they can to make themselves popular, all it achieves in the end is that you get liked by those you are useful to in the shallowest of terms and everyone else thinks that you are a bit of a saddo. Childish people leave a trail of chaos behind them as they try and juggle all the whims they have and all the promises that they have made. Eventually , all their nonsense catches up with them and everyone suffers. Childish people make no one happy, not even themselves.
Being childlike is totally different, you retain a sense of wonder in the world around you, be it rainbows, shapes in clouds,the way sunlight hits water or simply a cool breeze of a hot day. Childlike is endless fascination, wanting to know the reasons for things, an endless stream of whys and what ifs. Being childlike is being honest and having a defined sense of what is right and what is wrong, what is fair and unfair and the inabilty to accept any of the murky crap that comes with having to make compromises and tolerate shitty people. Childlike is a thing of the essential rightness of things whereas childish is petty and nasty, sneaky and wrong.
So now I shall spend the rest of the anniversary of my forty seventh year on this wonderful planet watching Netflix, looking through my posh picture book and making one of my master grade gundam models while the world outside gets on with its nasty petty crap.
Happy birthday to me!
I was actually asked to apply for an art thing the other day. The last thing I applied for turned out to be a complete con and the job had not only already been earmarked for someone but, to add insult to injury, it was highly likely that a person who was supposed to have my back was actually aiding the person who got the job to stitch up the competition, including me. Anyway, disgust aside, someone asked me to put in a proposal for an artwork around the theme of excess, I can’t actually say much more than that about it only that I’ve spent the last two days doing all the prep sketches and logistics for it, it’s nice when something isn’t the usual nepotistic fit up and someone actually wants me to get on in life rather than the usual handful of cronies.
The phrase “the road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom” instantly came to mind as I have been discussing the importance of William Blake with my nephew over the last few days in regards to his A level exams. It’s such a weird thing, having a conversation about eighteenth century poetry with someone who’s nappy you used to change but there we are and it is rather lovely. What’s more lovely is how quickly he loses me, being already way smarter and better read than I am, certainly much better read than I was at his age. Some of the horror stories of the things he gets up to, scare the life out of me, but then I remember myself at that age and I can’t really say anything, but I stopped eventually and I hope he will too. Being young is about making mistakes and hopefully learning something from them, however much I would like him to learn from mine it would be pointless, they were mine to make and learn from as are his in turn.
Trying to learn from my own mistakes has been a constant theme in my life and bloody hell have I made some. I still keep making them, over and over again, but at least they are new mistakes rather than the same one over and over again. According to Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, it is something I see all the time. I have got so tired of seeing people doing the same pointless shit, year after year despite the fact that their actions never have positive results, quite the opposite in fact. The same people, the same events, over and over again, like Groundhog Day, except without the genius of Bill Murray to make it worth watching. I ignore everything that goes on now, I wish everyone else would too, then they might finally go away.
The mistakes I’m trying not to make now are the hardest ones to shift, excesses of thought rather than action. It’s much harder trying not to think something rather than not do something. There are countless ways of not doing things, if you need to give up a vice, just don’t have it in your house, if you don’t want to contact someone, delete their details. Excess of thought is much more tricky. Only the most despotic of people can send out minions to tear down ever poster for a shit disco, crappy concert or tedious event so that you don’t see then and set off a chain reaction of thoughts. We can’t have bodyguards shoe every annoying person out of our line of sight so we aren’t reminded of darker times (although I would find it rather amusing) so thought is the only real battle left.
There are plenty of ways to stop thinking, drink and drugs work wonderfully for example, but them I would be back to being the train wreck I was in my late twenties and that would be a terrible thing. The other option is to busy my head, throwing myself into any old shit going and tagging along with whatever bullshit happens to cross my path. That, though, is more harmful that the booze and drugs and it is easier to quit cigarettes than the arseholes you would let in your life as cigarettes don’t tag you in Facebook posts and ring you constantly if you don’t do their bidding. So it’s a case of slowly building things up, reinforcing the good and starving the bad of attention. It’s a constant and exhausting battle but one I hope to win in time.
I spend a lot of time of late wondering just why people go out of their way to shoot themselves in the foot, from the daft sods who on queuing up all night for the latest iPhone, manage to drop them on concrete on the first day, through people who get bad tattoos or take stupid risks with drugs to those daft buggers who go off on adventures with zero planning only for the rescue services to have to deal with it at insane cost. The world is a dangerous place, there is disease, accidents, natural disasters and crime but, as if that wasn’t bad enough, so many people go out of their way to ruin their own lives. Granted, you talk to people who have screwed up big time and they usually have an explanation. It might not seem even vaguely sane from your point of view but from their’s it is the most logical thing in the world. I walked past a man in his fifties today, he had two huge Chinese characters tattooed up his face, they had that blue’d out, shopping list fished from freshly washed jeans look which suggested they were done along time ago. I was temped to take a photo and run it through Google translate and see what it said, I expect it would be something like “stupid drunk white man” it usually is.
The world is full of human tradigies, George Bests and Amy Winehouses who had it and the spectacular lost it. Why do people do that? They finally get what they always wanted and then…Phht! Up it goes in smoke. I have a number of theories about why people do this, maybe they are right, maybe not. I think a lot of people get so used to things being shit that they can’t handle life any other way, they haven’t the reference points for being happy. It’s like watching a freed circus elephant pace five foot forward and five foot back, the distance the chains it no longer wears would allow it to go still etched into their very being. Sometimes the chains stay on in our heads, no matter what we do. So many people sabotage their own happiness when they get it. There are so many tales of millionaire lottery winners who ended up in worst places than where they started as well as those who didn’t change a thing, still doing crappy jobs and leading narrow existences.
We are such strange creatures us humans, whilst we would like to believe we are the masters of our own unique destinies, we have about as much free will as one of those rescued circus elephants, walking our few feet forward and back. Once we get to a certain point in childhood, our brains are set, we are who we are and it takes a gargantuan effort or incredible trauma to shake us from that hard wired setting. It can be done though… You just have to really want it.
The really surprising thing is that people can’t actually image a life outside of the one they have, they can’t imagine a world perceived different from the one the believe and, more importantly, are invested in believing exists. Whilst on a personal level we are all special butterflies whose individual rights to be who we want to be must be respected, blah, blah, blah, blah, it is the cumulative total of all that stuckness that makes the world such a disfunctional mess of stuck people going through the same counterproductive routines because we can’t imagine anything much different, myself included.
Strangely enough, the sheep like quality of many humans is actually much more apparent in those trying to convince themselves and others that they are different, the clothes you wear, the hairstyle you grow, the piercings you have, the tattoos you sport and the drugs you take keep you as regimented and trapped as any suit. Be you, hipster, rockerbilly, goth, rasta, emo, hippie, whatever, you are all trapped regardless of what you chose to believe, you are a marketable and malleable commodity to someone. Perhaps even more so as your belief in your difference means you have let your guard down.
According to the marketing industry, I’m an ‘edge dweller’ and we are very rare and up until the age of Google and targeted ecommerce we were too much trouble to market to as we see straight through all the tricks, now we are just another software patch in a marketing algorithm.
So really, what is wrong with us all? Why do we do it? Why do we fuck it up even when we are handed exactly what we want? I honestly don’t know, but I would hazard a guess that it is because we are all stupid barely evolved monkies, clever enough to fashion smarter and smarter tools but still too stupid to know what to do when we have fixed all our problems, except of course create a few more.
Let’s face it, most of us are doomed, myself included, and quite rightly so, buying tickets to board the titanic, even though we already know it will sink.
It’s my birthday soon, I’m going to be forty seven years old. As of Saturday I will have outlived Oscar Wilde, JFK, Philip Seymore Hoffman and Albert Camus. Erm, yay me! To be honest, just being alive with my health problems and the crap I have had thrown at me is enough of a present really but, as I have done now for many years, I know what I’m getting for my birthday because I bought my own presents. I have sadly learnt from experience that the only person responsible for my happiness is me. So this year, I shall be unwrapping… Two gundam model kits from Japan, a Mario Amiibo so my fat, balding, avatar can whizz around the Mario kart circuits in a fancy new Mario outfit, I have two new t-shirts and the new Takashi Murakami book from his show in Chigago. There is one thing else I want, and it’s something that I know I won’t get… But more of that later.
I have already been absolutely spoilt for my birthday this year in the form of an artwork. My very talented friend Helen popped over last week and spent the morning drawing elements from my home as an early birthday present. I go a bit wobbly lipped whenever I look at it as I can’t remember the last time someone took the effort to make me something. There is an addendum to that present though and that is I have finally got to a point where I don’t feel anxious about having my femail friends popping over to visit again and I no longer have jealous people in my life. For so many years, decades in fact, it wasn’t a problem, I took everything at face value and didn’t give anyone a sexual preference in terms of friendship. To be honest, the only question I ever have now is when someone befriends someone many years younger than themselves as i fail to see what anyone could have to talk about with someone in their teens or early twenties and they are my age. To me, that would be getting into Radio 1 deejay territory, but maybe that is just me. It is nice though, feeling comfortable with the lack of guilt I have with whom I have in my world. That is a present on its own although the circumstances of that gift still grate on me daily.
I will get lots of phone calls and I shall get taken out somewhere nice and generally get spoilt rotten but I will be denied the one present I want because none of them can give it to me, it’s not in their power to.
The other present I would like? Well, it, or to be more accurate, they, as there are more than one of them, are answers. Honest answers to some straight forward questions. I can’t even say what those questions are for legal reasons but there are definitely some “why?” questions, some “what?” questions and also a few “when?” questions. I suspect there is also a “who?” question (probably) linked to a “when?” and a “where?” also quite a few “what?” questions. It is pointless me asking though as I know I will never get straight answers, partly through some misguided fear of my response, but mostly because a level of self awareness can be a dangerous thing. After all, if any of us actually take a look at our actions and our motivations for those actions, we might actually have to make some changes, and then where would we be?
So….. as honesty and self realisation have a value beyond diamonds and pearls, perhaps I should ask for….. drum roll…… I want…. A miniature Shetland pony! Still more easy to procure than the truth and so, sooooooo, cute!
So here’s the problem. I hate doing all this. I hate doing anything that draws attention to myself, I hate all the trappings and grandiose expectations that go along with being an artist. The title of this bit of thought seepage should have read “the artist’s dilemma ” but, I mean, how pretentious is that? Watch any even half successful artist nowadays and they have precisely one thing in common, they are all champion schmoozers. People turn up at things, network, meet agents, meet potential buyers, talk to the press and generally do their best to sell people on what they do and try and leave a good impression.
I’ve been to these things myself and I just can’t do it, all that talking about yourself, I hear the words as they come out of my mouth on autopilot and its, blah blah blah blah waffle waffle, so much meaningless noise, over and over again.
I just can’t take any of that seriously, which is a shame as I absolutely love making art, but the whole of the garbage that goes with it is tedious. It was so much easier when I was officially crazy and I was doing it for little more than my own amusement. I just did it, nothing was riding on it and it didn’t matter. Now though, with ‘artist’ on my business bank account it does, there is pressure to earn…. Hustle that artistic ass baby!
This is where it all goes wrong as I keep getting put into positions where I am forced to take myself seriously and am confronted with situations where I have to deal with a whole gamut of scenarios where I have to keep quiet at the insular, clicky, nature of things where I have to stick my snout in the farthest end of the trough and wait for scraps with the other pigs. Of course I mess it up, I go and be honest, I go and point out the fakery, the corruption, the nepotism and I don’t get my scraps like a good porker. I keep soldiering on though, plugging my work (which I hate) trying to sell myself, which I’m terrible at, and it achieves two things it seems. It makes me become a threat to some people and a walking target to others and still I have to carry on because now it is my job. I doesn’t help that my work is so personal, if I used some grandiose, arts council grant friendly worldly theme, I could exploit it and them. I’m essentially an introvert though, I paint and draw my thoughts, I depict my response to events I see, be they personal or public. If you depict your feeling, you get into all sorts of bother, particularly when the people who provoked that response don’t like what they see. Things get nasty then, it would be easier if I just did what everyone else does and gossip behind their backs, but nope, stupid Chris picks the earnest and honest option. This has got me two things, lots of people hate me and lots of people think I’m completely mad, I don’t really care about either on a personal level but I’m sure it hasn’t done me much good from a business point of view.
So here I am with all these things that I’m supposed to do, promote, schmooze, network, blog, charm, apply for grants, invent work for myself. So what do I go and do? I go off and make art. Now tell me, what kind of idiot does that?
Tomorrow is dead dad day, or Father’s Day as it is more commonly known. There are some fucking useless fathers out there, people who provide shit role models, if they are present at all, my dad wouldn’t be one of them. I find Fathers Day upsetting for his absense even after twenty years and for the way it rubs salt into the wounds of not being a dad myself, particularly as there are so many wankers who have managed it… I’m sure there is a joke in there somewhere.
After all this time I still want to ask him things, like what were those awful blue black smudges on his arms. My dad signed up for the navy during the Second World War, a daft kid of eighteen, younger than his grandson is now, the one he missed by just over a year. He saw so many horrific things, swept lumps of his friends off the deck of ship, saw soldiers drown because officers couldn’t read marine depth charts properly on d day by which point he was around twenty three. He got some awful tattoos done in Ceylon and made them even worse by trying to get rid of them with a Brillo pad when he got home and my mum chucked him because of them. All I ever saw was the blue black blurs, the stubborn ghosts that survived their attempted excorcism. I never found out what they were and it still bugs me now. I’m not a big fan of tattoos personally , they work splendidly on some people, but on others they just look shit. It’s all about reasoning and thought and planning and some people know what they are doing of and others haven’t a clue. Like any form of communication, some people have more to say and better to say than others, some should just shut the fuck up.
I never got to really make my peace with my father, the strokes and brain damage changed him greatly from the man he originally was. I never got to that point where we could see eye to eye and we never really understood each other’s reason for how we lived our lives.
I can see similarities now, sadly congenital heart problems being one of them, but also both getting on better with women than men and being soft touches when it comes to anyone in trouble. Neither of us could stand dishonesty, corruption or injustice either and God help anyone he saw knocking a child or a woman about…. He could be a scary guy when he needed to be.
I wish there were more people like him about now, more like that and less vain, showy off arseholes. Sadly, many parents now are bigger kids than the children they dragged up, trying to remain hollow version of teenagers way beyond it being appropriate or even funny.Here’s to the few ones left that aren’t!