To date, this has been a 7 year project, by Stephen Wragg to document the 'Walking Men' on streets and paths in the UK. I have looked at some examples in other countries, but for a variety of reasons, the painted versions in the UK are more eccentric and diverse.
Discovering 'Walking Men' for the first time in 2004 was every bit as inspirational as coming face to face with a life-changing painting on a gallery wall. The subject matter is rather familar too; of course the representation of a human form in paint has been a central interest of artists for millenia.
As you will see here, I have taken two types of photograph, straight down - to record the actual design, and also an oblique view placing the design in it's context and the environment it inhabits. In this way it mirrors a naturalist's collecting instincts, gathering specimins for display, and recording the details of the site.
If 'Walking Men' in some way define the fleeting transitory nature of our lives, they are themselves ephemeral. I have photographed fresh designs, and then over the years watch them gradually degrade, losing features until at last they become faint shadows, just ghosts of figures. In York, for instance, a previously photographed collection have all recently had crude repairs that look like plaster-casts on broken limbs.
The physicality of the painted surface is a wonder. The designs can be applied so thickly you could almost trip over them, with wild painterly, textural qualities as a beguiling as fresh lava-flow.
I am also aware that in recording them, and drawing attention to their diversity, our friends in the Highways department may well become self-conscious and insist on more rigorous standardisation. So we have to appreciate them while they last, before creativity and individualism is stamped out.
This collection is one of my life interests, it now defines the way I approach and explore a new town or urban space. I am always on the lookout, passing by with half an eye on the roadside.
It is both a collection, and a documentary, as well as becoming an artwork in it’s own right
Expanding the collection and publishing it is an ongoing project.
You can help too. Although I have travelled from Orkney to Sussex, I haven't been everywhere.
While it would be ambitious to suggest we need to track down and document every Walking Man in the UK, or the world even, we can try to record the best.
If you would like to send me some fine examples from your neighbourhood, details are on the submit page.
I am very keen to spread the word about this project, so if you would like to discuss any publishing / exhibition opportunities please get in touch: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This project has been featured in the following publications:
Blueprint Magazine: May 2011 - link to the online version
Guardian Newspaper G2 (picture above): 16 May 2011 - link to the online version
Creative Review - Monograph July 2011
"And for subscribers only, our Monograph booklet features Stephen Wragg's fantastic Walking Men project"
This is a 20 page booklet, a couple of pages are shown on the July 2011 edition page, (it's a long scrolling page, the Monograph is featured towards the bottom of the page. However, the full publication is behind the paywall for subscribers.