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Whilst some people think neon is just for signage, there are many enthusiasts (including all of us at Neon Creations) across the world that look to the use of neon as an art form, and there are a whole host of different artists looking to use neon as a medium through which to express their artwork. Of course, crossing the border between art and science is always going to be interesting, so here we take a look at the various different art forms around the world that make use of neon in their exhibitions.
Chris Bracey, who sadly passed away in November last year, was one of the biggest neon artists to come out of the UK. We’ve highlighted Bracey’s work before, but the graphic designer turned neon artist, deserves a special mention here as a posthumous pop-up exhibition in Soho (see below), an area he transformed with his neon art, has recently opened to pay homage to some of Bracey’s best work in neon.
We cannot get through an article on neon as art without mentioning Dan Flavin, who brought neon into galleries in the 1960s and helped to grow its popularity as an art form. His work is permanently installed in many galleries and museum in the US and Europe, including the Kunstmuseum in Basel, Germany and the Hudson River Museum, in New York. One of Flavin’s best styles of work was the corridor installations (see below) he created, which were said to help to control the movement of visitors to art galleries.
Combining neon lighting with furniture to create furniture that is more of a piece of art than something you’d sit on was the brainchild of Lee Broom. Lee displayed his work during the London Design Festival in 2007 at Brick Lane Gallery. The exhibition featured finely designed and built mahogany hand-carved pieces, which were then finished with a high gloss lacquer and finished with fixed neon lighting. The exhibition featured vanity mirrors, a cathode console, a chair, nightstand and showcase cabinet.
Julia Bickerstaff’s exhibition in 2013, which was said to celebrate sculpture and art created with the use of neon, was shown at the Munro House Gallery in Leeds. Her pieces included sculptures such as “Light Refreshment” a piece using neon-lit glass bottles, with the illusion of liquid created by neon strips, and a neon representation of the signature of Charles Dickens’ in neon, amongst others.
A collection of Tysko’s work was shown in London and comprised of neon installations, photographs, texts and videos of the man himself. Tyska has a reputation of working with unusual media, and his use of neon has created some interesting pieces that are highly collectable.
Hopkinson Gallery played host to work in neon created by Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas, as part of the city of Nottingham’s Light Night festival, which is held annually. Images of microphones and skulls lit up the small space, and it was a rare occasion to see the artists’ work outside of London. As part of the same festival, artists commissioned by the council installed porcelain neon-lit tributes to those who served in the Great War.
This exhibition was followed by “Mercury and Electric Shocks”, an exhibition featuring the work a range of successful British neon artists including Gilbert and George, Kerry Ryan and Gavin Turk, as well as Emin and Lucas.
As you can see, neon really does have a place within the art world, and it’s clear to see that the development of neon as a medium to produce art is only ever going to get more popular.