An Interview with My Dog Sighs Ahead of his Exhibition INSIDE

We have long admired the output of street artist My Dog Sighs, ever since we first sited his work around Camden Town, London, in 2014. The Portsmouth based artist may not paint in London as often as we may wish, but it is always a pleasure when we do get the opportunity to view his work, wherever we may find it. So it was an absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to discuss his artistic journey for this interview, ahead of his upcoming exhibition  titled INSIDE in his hometown of Portsmouth

In talking with the artist we learned that My Dog Sighs earliest love with art mirrored that of a few other artists we have spoken to for interviews, in that he was always that kid who had a pencil or felt tip in their hand. Someone not into sports, but more content scribbling and drawing on anything and everything. Progressing over time from working on cartoons as a child, to painting his mates leather jackets in the 1980s, followed by creating backdrops for the rave scene in the 1990s. In the 1990s My Dog Sighs returned to the UK after a stint of travelling and decided to become a full time professional artist, something which didn’t take off at the time, finding the future artist taking up the 9-to-5 life instead of his dream vocation. 

Work in Camden Town, London, from 2014.

After a bit of time whilst still enjoying creating his own, and simultaneously exploring others’ art, My Dog Sighs started to follow some online blogs and noticed the transition of public painted artworks shifting from a more traditional graffiti scene to that which has become what we now consider to be street art. Finding himself absorbed with the concept of art being created solely for the streets – not for galleries – drawn in by the democratic nature and ephemeral appeal of street art. The good and bad has its place and it is there to be enjoyed for as long, or as can often be the case, as short as the artwork survives in the public realm.

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Work in Camden Town, London, from 2014.

My Dog Sighs’ first venture into public art was through Free Art Friday in 2003 which saw the artist creating artworks and leaving them for the public to notice and should they wish to, take home with them cost-free. This allowed the artist to circumnavigate the illegal aspect of much street art back then – it wasn’t so easy back then to get legal spots or even be asked to paint a wall as it is now – whilst enjoying the fleeting lifespan his art was subjected to, being arguably less permanent than a wall painting, fused with the excitement of people having to find his art. Not being able to afford canvases to give a way every single week the artist then started painting whatever he could find on the street, such as doors and sofas, leading his way to one of his more iconic mediums, that of the can. A skillset that would serve well for the variety of spaces and objects he would later work in his career as a street artist.

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Work with The Toasters in Bethnal Green, London, from 2015.

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After ten or so years of free art drops – which the artist still does, even if less frequently these days – My Dog Sighs was then invited by some street artists to “come to Bristol and paint with us” for what was the second Upfest event around Bedminster. From nervously painting a 4ft square board with brushes at Upfest, the artist was offered more spaces to paint, This marked the transition from the anonymous artist leaving his creations in public for others to find, to the street artist painting the world over you may be familiar with now. This moment created a turning point in the artist’s life and professional career, birthing a hunger to get up and more. Even now beyond painting the large-scale murals he often creates, My Dog Sighs still has that desire to ‘get up’ as much as he can, always travelling with a folder full of paste-ups, slaps, tags, cans, that can be left up wherever he goes. He may not be a graffiti writer but has always loved and adhered to the graff mentality of getting up and leaving your mark as much as possible.

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Work in Camden Town, London, from 2015.

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In the artist’s early years painting on the streets, he painted a range of subjects, anything from cartoons, cats, jellyfish, whatever inspired him. As My Dog Sighs put it, he was “biting others to gain his own style”. Though My Dog Sighs’ distinctive Everyman has been a character the artist has been painting since the beginning of his street art adventure, often created as a finger painting.

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Work in Bedminster, Bristol, from 2015.

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Work in Bedminster, Bristol, from 2015

In time the artist’s work evolved into the that which we for one know and love now – the cans started for example about 7-8 years ago, which led to painting eyes, with the eyes as a subject transitioning from the cans into new contexts. The eye as a subject is a medium for portraying the three-way relationship between My Dog Sighs, the wall and the viewer. My Dog Sighs paints the wall, in turn the viewer looks at the eye and may posit the question of whose eye is it? Then the reflection in the eye presents a question as to who is in the eye – breaking it down to the subject within a subject. The detail within the eye is always different and offers a new story with each new imagining. 

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Work in Brockley, London, from 2015.

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The Quiet Little Voices characters started to develop from “phone book doodles” about five years ago. They pull all the different elements of his output, such as the cans and multiple eyes, reflections, creating a series of outer-worldly surreal mythical creations – all linked by the permeating sense of melancholy that is typical of My Dog Sighs’ artwork, with these subjects often looking lost, just waiting to be found. 

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Work in Shoreditch, London, from 2015.

Which leads to the current show My Dog Sighs has spent the last two or so years planning and the last year creating. This is very much the artist’s most ambitious project to date. In 2019 he planned to do a show in 2020 focused on the concept of “2020 vision” which was set to be all about eyes. Upon discovering the space the upcoming show is taking place in, the original plans evolved from predominantly painting eyes on the walls to a strong focus on the Quiet Little Voices – who in this context have become the vessel for conveying the art that My Dog Sighs presents. These characters are set creating artworks and  painting walls, posing questions as to who is the true driving force behind what is created – the artist or the subject?

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Work in Birmingham, from 2016.

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When the artist first ventured  into street art, the artists were often perceived as ghosts, with only the results of their endeavours visible to the world once they were gone from a spot. With this project My Dog Sighs takes his quiet little voices and shifts the narrative of what is understood by ‘My Dog Sighs’.  Like us, his Quiet Little Voices are not perfect and neither are their lives perfect. They struggle, they make mistakes, they fail. However, just like us too, they don’t give up. Even among the all consuming decay they use their creativity to find hope. 

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Work with Snub23 in Bedminster, Bristol, from 2017.

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The most notable thing that is new about this body of work is the level of sculptures produced, both big and small. Creating this exhibition resulted in the artist developing and using new skills in order to take his art in a new direction. This show is all about taking control of all senses, beyond the paintings and sculptures the show incorporates lighting and sound dynamics, to create an all round immersive experience to consume the viewer upon entering Inside.

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Work in Brick Lane from 2017.

Creating this show in such a space definitely came with some challenges, such as the all consuming darkness of spending so many months without electricity in the building, working under the light from rechargeable lamps. Along with spending months living among a few hundred pigeons, who he shared the space with for six months before having to evict them for health and safety reasons regarding access to the general public once the show goes live. Notably though, once the pigeons were gone the artist missed their presence and company, resulting in the artist creating some Quiet Little Voices pigeons in order to bring them back to the building.

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Work with Skeleton Cardboard, in Dalston, London, from 2019.

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As for the oh so perfect setting for this exhibition, namely an empty building which has laid neglected and abandoned for some four decades, offering that real urban exploration motif that ties in with street art and graffiti hunting. Often the best places for street art are those grimy deadend forgotten places, which this space completely lends itself to. Setting to create an environment that offers new insight into viewing peoples art. The scale of the space available has also allowed the artist to utilise many spaces resulting in the likely possibility that there are probably a number of works that people won’t see – there is a maze for example, with each turn presenting new works. Which most spectacularly of all means that there is so much scope for every individual’s experience of the exhibition to be unique. Playing with the environment is at the heart of street art and that is why this space is so perfect for what has been created.

Photo provided by My Dog Sighs.

Photo provided by My Dog Sighs.

Photo provided by My Dog Sighs.

Photo provided by My Dog Sighs.

Photo provided by My Dog Sighs.

Photo provided by My Dog Sighs.

Photo provided by My Dog Sighs.

Photo provided by My Dog Sighs.

Photo provided by My Dog Sighs.

My Dog Sighs’ show INSIDE (We shelter here sometimes) runs from Friday 16th July to 1st August in a secret location in Portsmouth. Tickets are currently available via www.mydogsighs.co.uk 

Due to the current ongoing situation with Covid-19, the event can only allow 100 people entry at a time. Tickets are priced at £10 full price, £5 for concessions and free for under 18s. Additionally it’s really important to the artist that everyone who wants to see this exhibition gets the opportunity. So he has made 1000 tickets available free of charge for people on low incomes or facing other barriers that mean they wouldn’t be able to visit the exhibition. So far My Dog Sighs has been in touch with 20 groups in Portsmouth working in areas of deprivation or with people facing a range of issues including mental health and children with special needs.  Hundreds of these tickets have already been given away, but there are a significant number of these community tickets still available.  If you work with people in Portsmouth who would benefit from free tickets to see this otherwise secret project then please email mds.secret.project@gmail.com for the link to the free tickets.



 

3 comments on “An Interview with My Dog Sighs Ahead of his Exhibition INSIDE

  1. Great interview, always good to hear from artists. I’m definitely looking forward to the forthcoming show, seen the odd picture here and there, it’s quite exciting 😃

      • Just a couple of days left of the exhibition. If you can get to Portsmouth in time, then do it! The installations, the setting, the sound, all work so very well together. It’s emotional, it’s thought-provoking, it’s beautiful. Highly recommended this exhibition for anyone who likes their art to touch their soul.

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