Little wonders in the tiny world created by an enormous talent
IT is art but not as we know it. Willard Wigan's collection of micro-sculptures, on display at George Thornton Art gallery in Flying Horse Walk, cannot be seen with the naked eye.
The internationally-acclaimed artist has created tiny sculptures no bigger than a pin head that can only be seen through a powerful microscope.
Among the pieces is a scene from Cinderella and her three ugly sisters, at less than a hundredth of an inch tall.
"It began when I was five years old," says Wigan, 55, who grew up in Birmingham.
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"I started making houses for ants because I thought they needed somewhere to live. Then I made them shoes and hats. It was a fantasy world I escaped to. That's how my career as a micro-sculptor began."
The artist has been developing his technique for 40 years, sculpting pieces from gold, carbon fibre, nylon and even a grain of sand.
Owners of his work include Prince Charles, Sir Elton John, Sir Philip Green, Mike Tyson and Simon Cowell.
His most recent piece was of a portrait of the Queen on a coffee bean to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.
"It was a bit of a challenge because a coffee bean crumbles and is hollow in the middle," he says.
Before the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton he produced a micro-sculpture of the couple.
He was awarded an MBE in 2007 for his services to art.
The exhibition runs in Nottingham until July 21, before a tour of the US.
"This will be the only chance people in the UK will have to see Willard's unique and rare pieces in person," says gallery boss George Thornton. "The exhibition will leave visitors amazed."
Each piece takes around eight weeks to complete.
He adds: "The personal sacrifices involved in creating such wondrous, yet scarcely believable pieces are inconceivable to most. Willard enters a meditative state in which his heartbeat is slowed, allowing him to reduce hand tremors and sculpt between pulse beats.
"Even the reverberation caused by outside traffic can affect Willard's work. Consequently, he often works through the night when there is minimal disruption."
The pieces are displayed underneath Perspex domes, set on a plinth, with high-powered microscopes directed at each to bring them into focus to the naked eye.
George Thornton Art is open Tuesday to Saturday, from 10am to 6pm. For more information call 0115 924 3555 or go to www.georgethorntonart.com.