An Interview with Jenni Wiggle

How did you come across ArtCan, and what inspired you to get involved?

It was my partner, Hamish Macaulay, who introduced me to ArtCan. He was experimenting with printmaking and researching art organisations online when he discovered the ArtCan community. He applied and was accepted to become a member. ArtCan provided him with a wonderful supportive and social network to help him find his feet in the art world. I loved everything about it, so when Kate asked me to become involved in the Advisory Group I jumped at the chance! And I eventually gained the confidence to apply to be an artist member as well.

Can you tell us a bit about your own artwork, your process and inspirations?

I’m interested in the different ways we can view the world. My photographs are often either distorted images of something everyday, or of a subject which appears simple, but has complexity and detail, often from nature. For example, I once found myself obsessively photographing a dandelion seedhead against a cloudless blue sky.

Whilst in managed isolation and quarantine in New Zealand at the start of 2021 I used the paper bags our food was delivered in to make origami animals. It became central to a daily blog I was doing while in there to share and document my experience. I’ve always loved paper and I’d like to see what would come from working with it more and exploring paper based mixed media.

You brilliantly curated ‘Set in Stone’ for ArtCan – can you let us know more about how you translated the show into a virtual exhibition as well as a physical show?

Like for so many events of 2020, ‘Set in Stone’ was already well underway as a vision and a plan before everything changed. I already knew how the original works were going interact with each other at 44AD Gallery in Bath. When virtual galleries became more accessible as we continued to stay at home it was a case of playing with those connections between the pieces in the online space. The hardest was Simon Probyn’s stunning ‘Hand On Hip’ sculpture. Neither of us had a clue how to create it online in 3D! But with Hamish’s help we found a place in the virtual gallery which allowed it to interact with the works around it as a 2D image. Also, I had wisdom tooth surgery shortly before the curators talk so I was a bit wiped out on the night. Luckily it was online so people couldn’t see my face bruises so easily!

By the time we were able to go ahead with the exhibition in the gallery I had moved back to New Zealand, some of the artists could no longer take part, and some of the original works had sold. But the ArtCan community came together with the participating artists taking on different roles to help out and the exhibition hung at last in 44AD Gallery, over a year after it was first planned.

You were recently awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) – tell us more!

Yes, it was quite a surprise! I got an email in December telling me my name was going forward to the Queen and would I accept the proposed award. It turns out a letter was on its way to me but, due to the long delays for shipping due to COVID, it hadn’t reached me so they were trying a modern approach! I checked it all carefully as I couldn’t quite believe it and responded that day. (A few days later the official letter arrived in my letterbox.)

My BEM is for services to Active Travel. I worked for the charity Living Streets for eight years, with my final year as Interim CEO in 2020. I stepped into the interim role on 1st April 2020, as the previous CEO retired. He was a wonderful support and as we undertook handover in the early months of 2020 neither of us could have envisaged the circumstances in which I was about to take on that role. In the end it was a quite a year for active travel, and walking in particular, as our neighbourhood walks became such a precious part of our daily routines.