CHRIS THURMAN: How many artists on the head of a pin? Plenty in Germany

Miniature worlds can profoundly glance larger ones

20.9.2019

CHRIS THURMAN: How many artists on the head of a pin? Plenty in Germany

Miniature worlds can profoundly glance larger ones

Willard Wigan makes art that is small. Smaller than the miniature paintings of the Palas of Bengal. Smaller than the petite portraits hidden in illuminated manuscripts from late medieval and early modern Europe. Smaller than anything yet produced by the human hand.

Wigan’s talents are astonishing, to be sure. Describing his steady hands as like those of a surgeon is a severe understatement. His methods have also become more inventive as he makes smaller and smaller pieces: using an insect claw to hold his material in place, or applying a shard of diamond as a carving instrument.

There is thus an element of exclusivity to Wigan’s micromasterpieces. No-one can blame him for accepting the challenge of bespoke creations for famous people, and (as is the case with many high-profile artists) the news generated as a result of his clients’ celebrity cachet means that his work is becoming known by a wide audience. Still, this is not exactly art for the masses.

At first, the spectacle grabs your attention: the lights of Las Vegas, a rock concert, a town under snow. It takes a while for your eyes to adjust to the scale. Once they do, however, the Lilliputian inhabitants of these scenes become the irresistible focus. They are not nearly as small as Wigan’s microscopic subjects — in fact, they are positively Brobdingnagian by comparison — but they are little enough to demand that we strain not only our sight but also our imagination to enter their world.

Read more: Business Day

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