This week at Enter Gallery, we’re launching a new collection by leading contemporary artist, Elizabeth Waggett in which art, architecture and nature collide.
In her Victorian Series, Waggett presents a beautiful series of monochromatic lithographic prints that celebrate British Heritage and three of our most precious pollinators.
In today’s blog, we’re chatting to Waggett to discover more about this collection and the inspirations that shaped each piece.
Throughout her career, Waggett has always been a proud Mancunian, creating many an artwork depicting the city’s emblem – the worker bee – in homage to the hustle and bustle of her city, and the hard-working attitude of those that call it home.
This new collection is as a celebration of the people and insects that keep our country moving. As with her 2023 Halo series, Waggett has chosen to depict a bee, ladybird and butterfly, three endangered species that do invaluable work to balance our ecosystem by eating pests and pollinating flowers.
This latest series sees Waggett continue to use Manchester as her muse, in this instance, looking to the city’s architecture to shape her vision.
Manchester is a city is shaped by grand canals, railway viaducts, factories, and mills that speak to its history as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution.
Team these Victorian influences with other architectural movements, including Art Nouveau, Neo-Gothic and Edwardian Baroque, and you can see why Waggett has opted to draw stimulus from the streets of the city itself. Waggett reveals:
“I visited Manchester recently and was reminded of the beauty of it. Everywhere you look there’s something visually spectacular to appreciate. It isn’t until you’re away for a long time that you start remembering and appreciating the place you were brought up in.”
“The damask architectural pattern I’ve used as a background to these works is the same Victorian gilded pattern that you see all over Manchester, and all over Brighton for that matter. Interestingly, these designs originally came from man interpreting the patterns of nature.”
“In this series, I take endangered creatures and put them in a setting that’s strong and fortified. Buildings are around for centuries, so for me, architecture represents strength and longevity. By juxtaposing this symbol of strength against these soft, fragile insects, I highlight their importance to our foundations, and sadly, the instability of their presence on Earth.”
Memories of Home
Given the series is inspired by her home town and the interiors that we all grew up in, it makes sense that Waggett’s symbolic drawings also explore notions of memory, presence, absence, and belonging.
“I made these pieces at a time when I hadn’t been back to Manchester for a long while. We’d been in lockdown, I’d had a baby, and it was also just after I had my accident. I missed home and wanted to celebrate it. These works represent me leaning towards something that felt more like me at a time when I was feeling quite lost.”
“The damask pattern reminds me of my Grandma’s house, so while I was making these pieces I was thinking about the concept of home – what is home, what does it mean – is it a place, a setting, the people or what you’ve got around you? By blowing them up to this size, the works are a domineering presence, but the negative space is also there to evoke the absence of home and how it can feel to be out of touch with that feeling.”
A Light Touch
Alongside the intricate detail of Waggett’s works, another element of her oeuvre that has attracted widespread acclaim is her elegant gilding and use of gold.
The appearance of this prized metal in her Victorian Series allows Waggett to explore ideas of affluence and grandeur that are associated with the Victorian era, while also allowing her to bring movement and life to her works. Speaking of her approach, Waggett reveals:
“It is something that’s out of my control. Each work becomes alive and takes on its own meaning depending and on the light, placement, time of day, or who is looking at it. Much like memories you could say…”
Elizabeth Waggett’s Victorian Series is available exclusively at Enter Gallery now. Explore the collection here.