Street artist goes indoors to create immersive world for his characters

A renowned street artist has created an installation inside a derelict ballroom with the aim of creating beauty out of lost and forgotten spaces.

My Dog Sighs has become renowned in Southsea for his series of loveable characters and realistic eye murals, which have appeared on buildings across the Hampshire seaside city and around the world.

But now the former teacher has spent 18 months converting a semi-derelict hotel ballroom at the Queen’s Hotel in Southsea into an installation bringing his characters to life.

My Dog Sighs
Artist My Dog Sighs looks around his ‘Inside’ exhibition, which aims to replace his role in the artwork with ghost-like beings that he calls the ‘Quiet Little Voices’ (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The artist, who only likes to give his first name, Paul, said the aim of the exhibition is to remove himself from his artwork and instead replace himself with ghost-like beings that he calls the Quiet Little Voices.

His sculptures are shown in their different roles creating the artwork that My Dog Sighs is known for, such as his Everyman character, drink cans with painted faces and his giant eye murals.

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Paul told the PA news agency: “I am an artist known for working on the streets but I really wanted to push the boundaries of how I can work and how I can get people to interact with my work.

“Whereas normally they would walk down the street and see a mural painted on the wall, what I wanted is to create something where people could step into a world that I create, and I could take control of the lighting and the sound and how you see things.

“The idea is that I am trying to remove myself as My Dog Sighs and have these Quiet Little Voices take over, so within the space all the things I am known for, they are taking over and doing.

“I am known for painting cans and naive little characters and actually it’s these guys who are busying away.

My Dog Sighs
Artist My Dog Sighs makes finishing touches to his ‘Inside’ exhibition in a derelict ballroom in Southsea, Hampshire (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“I wanted to capture all those elements of the human condition and put them in a place where they would live and have this space and have the public come in and have a glimpse of these normally unseen creatures.”

The installation takes over two floors of the ballroom, which has been unused for 40 years but was home to a Playboy Club in the 1960s and also hosted performances by bands such as Led Zeppelin.

It is now in a state of disrepair, worsened in recent years after urban explorers gained access.

The project, funded partly through crowdfunding and the rest by Paul remortgaging his home, was originally meant to take five months, but the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic prolonged and transformed the project, meaning it took 18 months.

Paul said: “I stumbled across this incredible empty building and as soon as I stepped in I realised it was the opportunity of a lifetime, an empty building no-one has been into for 40 years was just the fantastic place to build my own world.

“That idea we can take control of these beautiful and lost spaces and turn them into something special is part of the message of the project.”

The My Dog Sighs: Inside exhibition runs from July 16 to August 1 and tickets are available at mydogsighs.co.uk.