When it came to painting two 8ft giraffe sculptures for Worcester Stands Tall, artist Chris Morgan was no stranger to the task.
The 44-year-old, from Great Bromley in Essex, worked on many Wild in Art trails with his late wife Valerie Osment – including a giraffe trail at Colchester Zoo in 2013.
Mr Morgan says he hopes to keep the legacy of his wife’s work alive by continuing painting for public sculpture trails – including Worcester Stands Tall.
He has decorated two giraffes for the Worcester event – the Banksy-inspired Giraffsy Graffiti and Roman Legionnaire Girafficus.
Find out more about Mr Morgan in our Q&A:
How did get involved with Worcester Stands Tall?
I have been involved with Wild in Art public sculpture trails since 2013 when Colchester Zoo ‘stood tall’ and I helped design and paint an Austin Powers giraffe sculpture with my late wife, Valerie Osment. When Worcester Stands Tall came up, I immediately registered my interest. After my wife passed away from cancer in 2017, it seemed like the right thing to do to continue painting for the public sculpture trails and to keep her legacy alive.
How do you feel to be a part of this project?
I am really excited to be part of the project as giraffes were where it all began with my late wife and I designing and painting public sculpture trail pieces for Wild in Art. I had never been to Worcester and the research for this project made the city come alive and made me really want to visit.
Have you painted a sculpture for a Wild in Art trail before?
With my late wife, we designed and painted a giraffe for Colchester Zoo, two bookbenches for London, two buses for London Transport, two dragons for Norwich, a bookbench for Loughborough, a pig for Ipswich, a gnome for Hampton Court Palace, a knight for Lincoln and two bears for Birmingham. Although we only got to paint one of the bears as my wife was in hospital having cancer treatment, so we had to pass it over to a fellow artist to paint following our design.
Tell me a little bit about your background as an artist
After taking art as an A-Level at the Colchester Royal Grammar School, I went on to study graphic design at Colchester Institute. I then took my degree in graphic design at Kent Institute for Art and Design. After my degree I worked for 22 years as a graphic designer in Colchester, all the while I was working with my late wife while she worked as an artist in education. I helped her with many technical aspects of her workshops creating samples and also helped her run the workshops for children and adults. After she passed away last year I decided that it was time that I did the things I love and gave up my job as a graphic designer to become a full time artist. My first job was to design and paint the giraffes for Worcester Stands Tall.
How would you describe your work?
My work is heavily influenced by my graphic design education and career. I produce relevant, thought-provoking, eye-catching and vibrant sculpture designs with a graphic/illustration feel. I also enjoy making my own sculptures from recycled materials I collect rather than throw away – including my old computer from my last job!
What inspired your giraffe designs?
The inspiration for Girafficus was Worcester’s rich Roman past and the Roman trade route of Ryknild Street – which ran from Wiltshire to Norfolk. I always like to give the sculptures a back-story to bring them to life and to educate the people viewing them. Girafficus was born in Britannia, of immigrant Roman parents, and he made them so proud by becoming a Roman Legionnaire. He spent his days defending the town against invaders and in his spare time enjoyed pottery and sword-making in the kilns and ironworks of the town of Vertis (Worcester). Girafficus was a Clavicularius (gate guard) and wears his Lorica Segmentata (armour), Cassis (helmet), Focale and cingulum (scarf and tunic), Gladius (sword) and his Scutum (shield).
The inspiration for Giraffsy Graffiti was born from a flash of inspiration after watching a TV programme about Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem. Inspired by the work of the human graffiti artist Banksy, Giraffsy is an anonymous Worcester-based graffiti artist, political activist and film director giraffe. His satirical street art and subversive epigrams combine humour with graffiti executed in a distinctive stencilling technique. His previous works of political and social commentary have featured on streets, walls, and bridges all over the world. Giraffsy today proudly displays his art on public display for Worcester Stands Tall.
What has it been like decorating an 8ft tall giraffe?
After helping design and paint a giraffe for Colchester Zoo in 2013, I knew the logistical and technical issues of painting an 8ft sculpture! Starting with painting them in the only place in my house that accommodates the sculpture’s height – upstairs in my spare bedroom. With just 1.5cm above the horns to the ceiling it was a tight fit and it meant that I painted the tops mostly on a ladder and the legs and feet by lying on the floor.
What are you most excited about for the art trail this summer?
I am excited that the people of Worcester get to be part of this exceedingly tall art trail and they can be proud of the sculptures and help take care of them. I also hope that the sculptures make a lot of money for St Richard’s Hospice when they are auctioned as the proceeds will enable the hospice care for people, like my wife, who suffer with life limiting illness and their families who have to deal with grief.