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 like cake! Who doesn’t? It’s one of the marvels of the world. Flour, egg, sugar, oven… Joy! So when I was toying with the idea of doing my own version of William Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress the word cake instantly popped into my head and it gave me a cracking excuse to put a cake into every picture. Anyway, before I start explaining about my take on the pictures, I guess I should say a little bit about the original artist.
Hogarth was a printmaker who worked his way up from poverty and became one of the 18th Century’s most celebrated artists. As well as painting portraits, Hogarth became well known for producing series’ of paintings that told a story, usually with a moral message. He would then reproduce these paintings as prints which could be sold on mass to a much wider market than the few who could afford to buy original paintings. It is important to mention that these images were moral in these sense that a tabloid newspaper could be regarded as moral i.e gratuitously describing sex, scandal and intrigue to in a salacious and entertaining manner whilst at the time criticising it. One of his best know of these morality tales was the A Rake’s Progress, the story of Thomas Rakeswell, a foolish young man who who inherits and squanders a fortune and the Sarah, the young woman who loves him and is dragged down with him. For all the pictures in this sequence I first produced a painting in colour using acrylics (I’m way too lazy to use oils) and then I did my version of an etching in biro just to see if I could.
In the first panel Rakeswell, or in this case Bakeswell, inherits a fortune from his miserly father. I needed to set this piece in the house of famous skinflint, I chose the set of Steptoe and Son, remade in America as Sanford and Son, a little know fact that swung this decision for me was that Harry H Corbet, the son Harooooolllllllllddddd! (sorry Harold Steptoe) was from Hastings, where I live and a running feature through much of my work. The cake theme in this image is pretty obvious, being stacked up on the tables and being in many of the portraits. The father’s underpaid accountant is also pocketing a crafty cupcake if you look carefully. On the table in the background rests a motorbike helmet, my version of a memento mori in this case telling us that the father has died. As it pays to advertise, through the open door I have placed a hatstand bearing a selection of scarves I used to make in a previous life when I was a textile and knitwear designer. For much the same reason I have tucked away teddies in most of the works as I also make handmade bears from time to time. Plug, over! The most pivotal thing about this picture though, as far as I’m concerned, is that it includes the first ever sad Dweebling. It was a tricky rule to break (believe it or not there are a sort of set of rules to what I do) but there was no way of getting around this in this set of images. The glum figure to the left of frame with the hanky is Sarah, who has, erm, a bun in the oven. She is being bought off by Thomas for the princely sum of a cupcake. What a lovely chap! Hopefully you have noticed that there is an extra lady in the painting to the ‘etching’, as with Hogarth’s works I have varied details between the etchings and the paintings, I’m not sure why Hogarth did this but my reason is a combination of boredom and or laziness. For each of the panels I also wrote the accompanying story in 17th – 18th century english (or my best attempt at it.) You can purchase your own copy here you lucky thing you! Anyway, that’s all for now. C x