Deep Dive by Joycelyn Longdon

Pig Malion: A Reflection on Art, Heritage and Culture


“It makes more sense when you peel back a few layers and get to know me and where I come from.”

Our multicultural, multifaceted world is a playground for creativity, teeming with artists of incredible versatility. Despite the immense density in the creative space, every so often there rises an individual who stops you in your tracks. Right now? Pig Malion.

Pig Malion (aka Parper Harper) has a style like none other, combining intricate and traditional sculpting techniques with an extremely expressive style that champions the beauty of afro-carribbean people. Stripping back the layers, we delved into the mind and world of this exciting individual, touching on his artistry, culture and heritage.

With a name so unique, we had to know its origin, “The name I chose comes from the Ancient Greek Myth of Pygmalion and Galatea. It’s about a sculptor who sculpted a woman (Galatea) from Ivory and fell in love with her. The goddess Aphrodite then transformed the sculpture into a living woman. It’s kinda similar to me in some aspects and I wanted to use a play on words, so changed it to Pig-Malion.”

With designs so expressive yet sculptures so intricate, we wondered how Pig Malion came to find his craft. “I would say my style has just developed over the years as my skills have improved. I can do more things with the clay and feel more confident in sculpting certain things. I take a lot of inspiration from a lot of European classical sculpture and then I take a lot from African sculptures too, my work is a reflection of me and my heritage I suppose.”

Pig Malion not only gave us an insight into his family life and his experiences growing up but also touched on the people close to him who act as constant muses and inspirations to him in all his creations. “I had a great upbringing. I’ve moved about 9 times from birth so I grew up in places all around Scotland. My Mum’s from Manchester so I’d always traveled there to see my Grandparents. I'm constantly influenced by the black people in my family - in particular my Grandad. He was Paul Wynter, a competitive bodybuilder and a Mr Universe champion - I like to call him King of Antigua. He constantly makes appearances in my artwork, whether this be through painting or sculpture it’s always just a little nod to him and all his achievements. My grandad and my mother are the epitome of black excellence and I strive to capture that energy in my sculptures.”

“I was never interested in anything else other than art and being creative from a young age I’ve always been obsessed with the human form and miniature figures. I was always seen with a naked barbie from about 2 years old and to be honest, nothing’s really changed.” For some people, their creativity is a learned practice that comes later in life. For others it comes both as a natural born talent and through a strong influence of parents and loved ones. For Harper, the latter is true. “My dad is a photographer so I definitely got my creative streak from him but I’ve always been supported in my art from being a wee boy. My dad never got the chance to go to Glasgow School of Art (that’s where I am currently), so from a really young age that was ingrained into me that that’s where I needed to be in order to find my feet in the art world.”

Harper’s sculptures, paintings and sketches usually depict women of colour or nod to traditional African painting techniques. Although a man of colour, Pig Malion has been confronted with some controversial negativity in regards to his art and depiction of bodies of colour. “I’m Scottish and Caribbean and very white passing. Women of colour have always been the biggest influence in my work and always will be period. I’ve mainly received supportive feedback and lovely messages, but I have had the odd comment from people questioning my colour and my depictions of black bodies. I understand that some people may see me as some white guy appropriating black art and exploiting the black body but it makes more sense when you peel back a few layers and get to know me and where I come from. I’d say I do it because I feel as though there is not enough representation through beautiful sculptures of people of colour, but for me this comes naturally. Sometimes I feel that there’s a certain responsibility for people like me in the arts to capture certain aspects of culture and narrate experiences and stories, for me anyway. I don’t just choose to depict people of colour, I naturally gravitate towards that subconsciously.”

Asked about what advice he would give to young creatives coming up, Pig Malion left us with some words of wisdom. “You can’t do everything so don’t stress it just do what you know and what you enjoy doing, take each day as it comes be ambitious but don’t put yourself under a ridiculous amount of pressure and take your time.“

Check out more of Pig Malion's Work


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