Mark Wigan’s design are synonymous with London club culture of the 80s and 90s. He’s currently residing up north in Hull and caught up with Farley recently for a quick question session.
You started out at Manchester art school i believe how did you start designing with the club world in mind?
I started drawing illustrated spider diagrams of nightlife family trees for i-D Magazine in 1984 around the time I began hosting parties in London and when I was the magazines roving reporter taking polaroid pics of clubbers. Back in the late 70s I was a regular at Wigan Casino and documented the scene through my artwork as a student at Manchester Poly and Hull School of Art.
How was it for a northern lad breaking into the NY Art / Clubbing world in the early 80s? didn’t Warhol describe you as ‘HOT ‘?
In the mid 80s I painted large murals at London locations including The Scala, Astoria, Kensington Market and in 86 painted the Limelight Clubs in London and New York (at Warhols suggestion,he described the four floor mural at Limelight London as Hot!).I spent some months in New York meeting lots of artists including Keith Haring and exhibiting my paintings in the East Village and also clubbing at venues including Area, Danceteria, Palladium, Tunnel and after hours clubs like Save the Robots. Seeing so much vibrant art being an integral part of the downtown nightclubs inspired me to fuse urban art and what would later be termed club visuals in nightclubs in Japan at clubs like the seminal P.Picasso in Nishiazabu Tokyo and The Brain in London.
I first went to Japan in 1988 where I initiated live painting performances and designed the interiors and painted murals at underground clubs across the country. By the early 90s I had a chain of my own branded club wear shops in Japan and was designing sets for Japanese TV shows. Back in London in 1989 I started hosting club nights called Gold in London with Sean McClusky, we opened a seven nights a week venue The Brain Club in Soho which was later followed by Love Ranch at Maximus and Merry England at Cafe de Paris.
Your club tribes / faces drawings were very spot on .. are you still interested in today’s scenes?
In terms of club flyers and posters the first ones I was commissioned to illustrate were for Fourways the disco my family owned in Cheshire back in 1976. Over the years I’ve designed hundreds for nights including The Warehouse at Electric Ballroom in Camden in 1984 to 80s one off party nights and the Brain Club Flyers.The artwork also crossed over into T Shirt designs and album sleeves for the likes of A Guy Called Gerald, Working Week and dance music label Deviant Records.
I am still a prolific graphic artist and club culture throughout history continues to inform my practice as a visual journalist and storyteller.For the past 15 years I have been lecturing in Illustration at Art Schools, I have led courses at Camberwell College of Arts and The University of Salford and to date have written five published books on the subject.
Three years ago with my partner artist Kerry Baldry I founded The Museum of Club Culture in Kingston upon Hull with the support of local council and Arts Council funding. Its an important project, we have a warehouse in Hull and host exhibitions that chronicle and celebrate the significance of underground club culture and street styles from the 1920s to the present day. We put on screenings of films, talks by authors, exhibitions of photography and artwork and have a permanent collection of nightlife memorabilia. Exhibitors have included Sue Tilley talking about her times with Leigh Bowery, the super 8 films of Punk filmaker Captain Zip, anthropologist and photographer Ted Polhemus, NME photographer Derek Ridgers,Northern Soul Scene photographer John Barrett and many more.I spend my time making art, exhibiting internationally ,curating the museum, lecturing part time at Hull School of Art and occasionally even go nightclubbing
usually to a Northern Soul night, I still have a real passion for the music that got me into the club scene in the first place back in the 1970s. At the museum from this month to Christmas I am exhibiting affordable framed screen prints and inkjet prints of my drawings at Mr Wigans Pop Up Print Shop, the idea is based on the satirical print shops of artists such as James Gillray and William Hogarth . A print of a Kensington Market poster originally drawn in 1984 on show with hundreds of others at Mr Wigans Print Shop which opens this Sunday at The Museum of Club Culture in Hull,( the monthly Humber St Vintage Market is also on Sunday at Fruit)