Feature artist Chloe Wigg: How art saved her life

I’m working with Chloe at the moment to craft her artist statement, and it’s been such a pleasure to dig deep into her art and her creative process. I’ve never met anyone who works so purposefully, building an image from its most basic tonal elements like she does.

She’s patient, determined and the joy she gets from her art is infectious. Each piece is deeply personal, only serving to encourage viewers to draw their own meaning from her work as well. Please click through the links at the end of this interview to see more of her work.

What does being an artist mean to you?

During my life with an invisible disability, I often spend hours on end having to intently focus on something, anything, to block out bodily hurts. This means I experience the world differently, seeing the intricate beauty in a single leaf, or the complexity of ink in water. Being an artist allows me to share that beauty with others, pull back the veil and let them experience even for a moment what I see in my mind.

While I create, I am whole. I am enriching the world. I am bringing something into being that didn’t exist before. That’s magic right there.

And regardless of my physical capabilities, I can do this one thing better than any person of full function. It’s empowering, it’s freeing and it gives me a place in this world.

What mediums do you work in?

I work in the sphere of fluid acrylic painting. My work is best described as fluid impressionism, using paint densities, layering and application technique to create intricate landscapes out of chaos and disorder. It is a euphemism for my life in a way, creating something beautiful and complex when it could very easily be a big old mess.

Headlands Country by Chloe Wigg
Headlands Country

Can you tell us about your style and process? What makes it meaningful and unique?

To create a painting, I first start by looking at landscapes and the flora that makes up the scenery. I break it up into its colour components then mix by hand between 40-100 different colours that work together to make up the scene.

I then layer these colours in such a way that when I pour them onto my surface a picture emerges. There is an art to the paint preparation, the densities, the layering and the rate and height with which I am pouring.

I am creating a mere impression of a scene, but instead of using brushes I am using liquids, which is infinitely more complex. I have to calculate how paints are going to react when laid next to or on top of one another, the paint with the greater density will sink and be hidden while other paints will repel each other.

All this needs to be figured out before layering the paints in the cup, I need to know what colours will come out and at what time in the pour so that the painting is tonally correct. Plus, liquid has a maddening tendency to go where it wants to so I have to work fast to keep my lines straight.

I have never seen this style of art before. It has taken me many years to create the process and I will continue my exploration of fluid impressionism in my upcoming collection “Natural Resilience”.

Chloe Wigg - Tempest

Have you studied your craft or are you self taught?

I was taught to create during art therapy sessions while doing rehabilitation in hospital. In the early days I wished to attend art school, but with my disabilities it just wasn’t something I was able to do.

Now 8 years on, I’m glad I have approached art this way, through trial and error, mindfulness and passion.

I believe it would have been very hard to create a completely new style of painting if I was stuck learning how to paint like others. Art for me is so personal, it is a part of my soul out there for the world to see. I can’t imagine how debilitating it would be to put your heart on a page and give it to others to rate and critique.

Chloe Wigg Billabong Country
Billabong Country

Where are you from and how do you think that has influenced you?

I don’t really know where to start answering this question.

I could answer based on physical location: I’m from The Whitsunday’s, which has given me a deep love of the ocean, the islands and the sky.

I could answer based on what I have done: As a retired Paramedic, I have a deep empathy with people, their experiences and their hardships.

I also have an innate urge to heal broken things, to help and to soothe.

In a way that is the true stemming of my art. I have found a way to continue to help people in their darkest hour, except now I do it through art rather than medicine. Now I help many rather than a few.

What made you decide to become an artist?

Art found me. I was drowning (emotionally, physically, financially) I was in pain, I was medically retired and I was so so despondent about life and the future.

I found that watching YouTube videos of people painting gave me something to cling onto. Watching colours merge and meld, seeing something come into being that didn’t exist before, it was soothing.

For short periods of time I was able to grab a life raft if you will, it kept my head above water. During my many rehabilitation stints in hospital they found something amazing:

My right arm was completely seized up, I had no use out of it and it hurt abominably. But when I had a paintbrush in my hand I could use it. I could block out the world and pour my soul into paper.

At first it was only for a few mins, then it was for half an hour, then it was for hours. The world just stopped existing outside me and the artwork.

Road to Nowhere by Chloe Wigg
Road to Nowhere

What influences and inspires you?

Colour does and its ability to emulate and elicit emotions.

My main artistic influences are artists like Arthur Brouthers, Emma Lindstrom, and Amica Whincop.

What do you consider success in your industry? Or for you personally?

Success is such a sliding scale isn’t it? If you had asked me 3 years ago what success was, I would have said: “Selling enough art to cover my materials to make more art!”

I try very hard now not to define success as a physical thing, it puts you in an ever-unachievable cycle of want. It puts the validation of your craft at the mercy of external factors outside of your control. Taking grander goals achieved each time to feel validation.

For me I consider being successful as:

  • being at peace in my studio
  • creating steadily and not being at the mercy of inspiration
  • being able to do justice to the artwork of my imagination and bring it into the world.

Most of all I judge success as an artist by the simple question: is this bringing me and family joy?

If that answer is ever no, no matter how much money I am making, then it is not succeeding at its primary function.

Have you collaborated with or worked alongside anyone? What can you tell us about that process?

I collaborated with musician and composer Sarah Styles as part of the BEMAC booster project, earlier this year and it’s certainly been a new experience for me.

Combining two different art forms is a thing of magic when done well, but is a huge learning curve on both sides.

Understanding what is involved on both ends and meeting deadlines has been key to working well together. Personally, I am used to having complete creative control over my works so relinquishing control has been something I have had to work on.

Chloe Wigg Acrylic Fluid Impressionist
Chloe Wigg, Acrylic Fluid Impressionist

What can you tell us about the struggles of being a practicing artist?

Working professionally in this field has not been without its challenges. I don’t have the physicality that is often required, going to markets and art expos are extremely difficult for a disabled person.

Galleries want you to have a huge body of work so that promotion is worthwhile for them, while I create steadily, I also have work on exhibition or sell privately meaning that the amount of artwork on hand at any one time is minimal.

It’s difficult to try and break into the art world by yourself with these limitations but whilst it hasn’t been easy, it’s still possible.

I have learned a lot about my resilience in business that my other challenges in life never taught me: Confidence, self-respect and work ethic (when you work for yourself that takes on a whole new meaning).

Is there anything you’ve done in the past that you wouldn’t do again? Or would?

I have been asked this question in regards to many aspects in my life. My answer is always the same:

I wouldn’t do anything differently.

The stuff ups, the costly investments that didn’t pay off, the all-nighters that ended up being for nothing, that’s learning right there.

We don’t learn anything when we constantly succeed. In fact, if we are always winning it will just make it so much harder when we encounter something in life that goes wrong.

Resilience is learnt and I wouldn’t change what I have experienced or have been through and learnt for anything. As Shakespeare said “I must uneasy make lest to light winning makes the prize light”.

What is your philosophy as an artist?

My art comes from a place of hope and joy. My philosophy is that so long as I create from that deep part of me that is honest and true, then it doesn’t matter if people don’t like it or it doesn’t sell, it was a meaningful painting and worthy of existing in the world.

Also, to not eat where I mix paint……

Where can people find you and your work?

My work can be found in an exhibition at St Vincent’s Hospital.

Art Lovers: https://artloversaustralia.com.au/vendor/chloe-wigg

Website: www.chloewigg.com

FB: @chloewiggart

IG: @chloewiggart

Coastal Country

Read the next blog: How Ronelle Reid left her job and started her art career in 2020.

Explore what place means to Therese Flynn-Clarke and how she expresses that in her artwork.