Many an artist has been inspired by colourful landscapes and passionate people as they travelled the globe. From the earliest cave paintings, artists have recorded their vision of ever changing horizons, encompassing broad landscapes and visions within their often limited canvass. From simple replication art has evolved into complex reflections of our modern world, which pushes limits and challenges taste.
Fanny Gogh is an artist and designer based in Salford, Greater Manchester who studied textile design at Buckingham New University before her love for travel took her on an extended global sabbatical. She has combined her love of art and design to raise money for charity by creating unique pieces of artwork from discarded (and hopefully clean) underwear donated by celebrities.
I bumped into ‘Fanny’ (not an expression I use that often) on the school run and asked if she would share some of her thoughts on art and travel for an article.
Her ‘Fanny Gogh’ persona originated in 2009 at an exhibition she was hosting called ‘Beautiful Trash’ which showcased her exploration of recycling through mixed media.
“I found a pile of small frilly knickers made out of beautiful fabric that just didn’t fit me anymore as after having 3 children I only wore the Bridgett Jones type. I soaked them in pva glue, stuck them to my canvas and sculpted them into the shape of a Knickerbocker Glory (ice cream) dessert. I put it in the corner of the room at the exhibition as I wasn’t sure of people’s reaction and I didn’t want to offend anyone but it stole the show!”
The exhibition generated a local media frenzy and one tabloid journalist referred to the artist as Fanny Gogh – a name which seems to have stuck.
Fanny travelled extensively after she left university staying on a Kibbutz in Israel and spending extended stays in the USA, Australia, India, Sri Lanka, and Hong Kong where she lived for 3 years working as a product designer and illustrator for international manufacturers and retailers.
“As a child I longed to be an archaeologist and travel to faraway lands. In fact I used to fantasise about being a female Indiana Jones. I listened to the BBC world service under my bed covers at night and tuned into anything with a foreign language.”
Fanny has indulged in her passion for art from an early age; a time when she regularly won the school and local church art competitions. At the age of seven she developed an obsession with faces, following the lines, contours and tones of all and sundry with her eyes. This obsession inspired her to do attempt a pencil drawing of her pop idol Howard Jones (no account for taste) which succeeded to draw significant admiration from her parents and motivated her to expand a growing portfolio.
Whilst still a capable portrait artist her creative motivation is now driven by a desire to extend boundaries in the materials that she uses to produce mixed media art.
But it is her foray into the world of celebrity underwear that has enabled her to produce some of her most iconic pieces in the form of the Knickerbocker Glory, which in turn has helped to raise money for lots of great causes.
“My celebrity lingerie artwork gets a lot of attention at charity events and the whole experience is a lot of fun. This is why I get asked to produce artwork for celebrity charity events as they can generate a lot of awareness and funds. I do as many as I can for numerous charities but I am an official supporter of the British Heart Foundation as I was born with a hole in my heart and had open heart surgery last year to patch and repair.”
Her unique artistic creations have been made with the assistance of some fairly big name celebrities including American actor Rob Schneider, Sara Cox and actress Kate Ford who plays Tracey Barlow in Coronation Street, all of whom have donated their underwear. Fanny has also been commissioned to create celebratory portraits for stars such as Englebert Humperdinck and William Roache.
So what is next for Fanny Gogh? “I have only just started to show the world my version of the ‘knickerbockerglory’ and will be running with that for a while. Also I am very excited that I have some filming opportunities for art related TV in the upcoming months.”
She possesses a bohemian flair and attitude; so when I enquired with which artist (living or dead) she would most want to have dinner with, it was no surprise that she chose Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec at the Moulin Rouge. Paris is also where she would spend a week painting if the opportunity arose.
Distant and exotic lands have been like a magnet to her from her late teens, when aged seventeen she had packed up and moved to live and work in a Kibbutz. But it is another distant (and troubled) land that left the most lasting impression on her when she travelled around Sri Lanka.
“I flew to Colombo and took the train along the west coast to the southern tip. I flitted between Hikkaduwa and Unawantuna, revelling in their beach culture. The immense power and beauty of the Indian Ocean is still very memorable as I stayed in beach huts and guest houses a few metres from the edge of the sea.” She enthused. “The clear blue waters, white sands and coconut trees were the epitome of a tropical paradise.
Fish would be caught before my eyes and cooked on the beach BBQ while I had my palm read by one of the Buddhist monks who came down from the temples.”
After indulging in this heavenly lifestyle she travelled back north through the tropical tea plantations to ‘Kandy’ where she enjoyed her most memorable travelling experience.
“I spent half a day in an Elephant sanctuary, riding, washing, and scratching a female elephant behind the ear with a coconut shell as she lay on her side in the river.”
Tragically much of the southern part of Sri Lanka was destroyed by the 2004 Tsunami but she vows to return one day and maybe some of the debris may inspire more special art works in a good cause.