Artist profile - Elizabeth Waggett
PUBLISHED: 00:00 24 August 2016
A young artist from Romiley is making waves in the Big Apple after going back to the bare bones of her art, writes Paul Mackenzie
New York is at the centre of the international art world but after establishing herself there and enjoying a successful debut exhibition in the city, Elizabeth Waggett is looking forward to leaving the place behind and returning home to Cheshire. She’ll be back this month, eager to catch up with friends and family, recharge her batteries and find new inspiration for her work, which is rapidly winning her many fans and admirers.
‘The rolling countryside and country houses, the patchwork quilt of Cheshire you see as you approach to land at Manchester Airport will always give me butterflies,’ she said. ‘I miss being able to live in the hills and still be so close to the city. I miss the British sense of humour. I also miss the quaint and refined ways of a place so old, which you only start to miss when you live in a place so new. This is particularly evident in comparison to New York which can be a bit grimy. I also love the independent retailers and natural food here that you know has been sourced locally.’
Elizabeth, aged 32, moved to the Big Apple in 2014 and now works in a Manhattan studio, producing artworks which are selling around the world – a number of Middle Eastern sheikhs have bought her paintings and she has recently completed a piece for HRH Prince Charles.
Although Elizabeth always dreamed of a career as an artist, she came to it via a circuitous route. She was born in Stockport and brought up in Romiley and after her degree at Manchester Metropolitan and an unsatisfying spell working as a graphic designer, she travelled in south east Asia and spent time working in an orphanage. When she returned she completed a post-graduate course at the University of Manchester and taught at St James’ in Cheadle, and then in Abu Dhabi where her artistic talents were spotted and she staged her first shows.
‘I don’t regret this detour from the traditional art route since it taught me so much about business, skills of perseverance and listening to your inner guide, not someone else’s,’ she said.
Those shows gave her the confidence to leave teaching and when the opportunity came to move to New York, Elizabeth promised herself she’d give it two years: if nothing happened, she would return to her normal life.
She struggled initially, but in the last 12 months her career has taken off. ‘Moving to New York was a risk and took me away from my comfort zone but I’m so glad I took the chance, I absolutely love it. The people are incredible, there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t have an inspiring conversation with someone or meet someone new.
‘When I first moved I was staying close to my graphical roots, a part of me was scared to show real “skill”. I was at a point in my first year in New York where things weren’t working,they weren’t me and I wasn’t inspired by them so nobody else would have been. I sat back and thought “I need to get back to basics”. It all comes from drawing so I started there, picked a subject I loved (animals) and went back to my stark style, lots of white space, strong composition and a minimalistic approach focusing entirely on skill. This body of work has developed from here, and will continue to, I’m very proud of it.’
She works from a photograph, altering the lighting and contrast to create an other worldly look, then spends hours and sometimes weeks, producing the finished piece using a variety of media; usually ink, graphite, pen and 24 karat gold. Originals sell for between £2,000 and £7,500, with editions priced from £250-£800.
Her last solo show, ‘Face Value’ – where many of the artworks shown on these pages were displayed – was a comment on the misplaced values of modern society. ‘The skulls represent the things that we should be valuing – be it a soul, an animal, your legacy – because this is something personal to the viewer. And the gold on the skulls represents the value in which we betray that, forgoing our true needs for materialistic ones.
‘Using the subject of animal and human skulls provided a way to expose the responsibility of the individual in owning to the effects of their decisions. I wanted to illuminate the arbitrary ‘face value’ we place on useless and culturally devoid items. The gold leafing juxtaposed against the skulls of these animals allows or challenges the viewer to question the prioritisation of earth’s most precious assets.’
Elizabeth has recently taken a road trip across America, gathering inspiration for her next show in New York. But that will have to wait until she returns from her holiday with family at home in Cheshire.
See more of Elizabeth’s work at elizabethwaggett.com