Inspired by teen memories of nights out in Worcester, artist Emily Sparkes describes her Worcester Stands Tall giraffe as a little “tongue-in-cheek”.
The 25-year-old, who lives in Birmingham, decorated the 8ft sculpture with an image of Worcester’s Elgar statue wearing a traffic cone on its head.
Over the years, various items – including a traffic cone and goggles – have been placed on the Elgar statue, which can be found on the High Street.
Titled Variations on an Original Theme, Emily’s giraffe also bears a QR code – which, when scanned with a smartphone, enables viewer to listen to Elgar’s ‘Nimrod’.
Emily’s design was chosen by sponsors AA Salt and features alongside 29 other giant giraffes on the six-mile trail.
Find out more about the inspiration behind Emily’s giraffe and her work in our Q&A:
How do you feel to be a part of this project?
Very chuffed. I’m so pleased that St Richard’s Hospice and my sponsors enjoyed my design – it is a little tongue-in-cheek but meant in good spirit!
Have you painted a sculpture for a Wild in Art trail before?
No, this is my first one.
Tell me a little bit about your background as an artist
I’m a painter and practice-led PhD student at the Royal College of Art. Previously I completed my MA in Queer Studies in Arts and Culture at the Birmingham School of Art, where I now teach. I tend to paint a lot of people and my rather despondent-looking self-portrait ‘An Ode to Christian Joy’ is in permanent collection at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. It was also featured on its art trail for the major exhibition “Coming Out – Sexuality, Gender and Identity” earlier this year, which was great. I’ve recently returned from my first international exhibition in Tromsø, Norway, (very beautiful but the beer is expensive!) and I have a group show coming up at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA) in September.
How would you describe your work?
BIG – OILY – MEMES
What inspired your giraffe design?
Late nights walking around in Worcester during my teens, probably between Firefly and Heroes, so it’s about the historicity of Worcester, music and it’s also about friendship. Elgar dedicated his Enigma Variations “to my friends pictured within”, which also features on my design, dedicated to the good-spirited nature of those involved. You can listen to a section of Enigma Variations by holding up your smartphone camera the big QR code on the front of my giraffe.
What has it been like decorating an 8ft tall giraffe?
Although I’m used to painting on huge canvases, the giraffe’s curvaceous neck does tend to throw things a little out of whack. It was a fun challenge and I enjoyed being back in Worcester hanging out in the public painting space and getting lunch from Phat Nancy’s.
What are you most excited about for the trail this summer?
Taking my grandma and grandad (Michael and Pat) around town to find my sculpture then diving into a suitable pub with the rest of the family!
Find Emily on Instagram @_sparkes