Swindon "hungry" For Art Says Big Dog Art Trail Artist

Big Dog Art Trail Featured Artist: Gemma Van Gils

Date published: 27 June 2023

The Big Dog Art trail wouldn’t be possible without the paw-some artists who dedicate their time and skills to bringing the Swindogs to life.

We’re showcasing some of the fantastic artists in the build-up to the trail and giving sneak peeks of their work on social media before all the sculptures will be revealed in full to the public on July 15, 2023.

This week we feature Swindon artist Gem Van Gils who is designing Viva La Frida for sponsors The Business Exchange, which will be located at Queens Park.

Where did you hear about The Big Dog Art Trail and what made you want to be a part of it?

I first heard about it on social media and I instantly wanted to get involved.

I’ve seen some of the other sculpture trails around in Bristol and London and I always thought it would be an exciting project to be part of.

Can you talk us through your design, which will be seen on the trail at Queens Park this summer?

Without giving too much away, I can say it will filled with lots of lively foliage, it will have a tropical feel to it.

There is going to be a lot of symbolism in there as well. I studied art history at university and it is something I love seeing in paintings.

It will have symbols that are very related to Julia’s House, like home, prosperity and longevity.

Visit Gem Van Gils’ website
Swindon artist Gemma Van Gills with her Swindog Vida La Frida

You have been using the joint painting space at the carriage works in Swindon to paint your sculpture, how has it been working with the other artists?

It’s been great to see a historical building repurposed in such a creative way.

Working alongside a spectrum of personalities was a new challenge for me, one that helped me to reflect on my own approach to creating art.

I was lucky to have some incredibly inspiring conversations with artists but at times I would have preferred solitude. It took a lot of willpower to remind myself that it was an experience to be embraced and enjoyed.

How is it painting on a Swindog sculpture compared to what you are used to?

It is a bit daunting. It has been a really exciting challenge though.

I am really enjoying it and I thought I would have more of a struggle than I have had adapting but I think it has given me a lot of motivation to explore different mediums.

As a Swindon artist, what does it mean to have your sculpture on display on The Big Dog Art Trail, which starts on July 15?

It is amazing, as someone who lives in Swindon.

I will be able to go and see it and being able to have other people I know go and see the sculpture and the rest of the trail.

I love the fact that I can take my family along, especially with my sculpture situated in Queens Park. It is going to be lovely to see my nieces and nephews go and see it.

Bringing more art into the community in Swindon is another big thing for me, which I know a lot of people are hungry for. It is going to be awesome.

Had you heard of Julia’s House before the trail and what does it mean to be supporting the charity through your art?

I’d been aware of Julia’s house and the amazing work they do for some time so it was an added bonus to know that my artwork will be raising money for such an incredible cause.


Find out more about the trail, the other artists and find out where the Swindogs and Swinpups will be located around Swindon by visiting our go to guide here.

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Julia’s House is your local children’s hospice charity, providing a lifeline of care for the most seriously ill children and their families across Wiltshire and Dorset.

Each family we support is unique and so is the care we provide. When a family finds out that their child has a very serious medical condition their world falls apart. Julia’s House exists to help these children and their families.

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Isabella with Julia's House Team Nurse Molly
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