Neon poems are everywhere and nowhere, hidden in plain sight. You can find them in the images circulating across underground Tumblr blogs, on the streets where no one’s looking or no one’s getting their meaning. People don’t really pay attention and most of the time we have no idea who’s the author, the creator behind them or what made him or her release their statement in such form.
I decided to give you a bit of an intro to this unspoken area of anonymous artistic approach which seems to have touched already its unnoticed peak. You’ll find below a list of 10 intriguing neon-poets, both old-school and newcomers, who sucked the poetry out of books and arranged its lines in the shape of glowing light.
The Old-School Generation
Joseph Kosuth is a widely acclaimed and awarded American writer and conceptual artist, currently based in New York and London. Apart from being one of the architects of today’s contemporary art, he is also known for the deeper, more philosophical manner he perceives art. In 1969 he published “Art after Philosophy”, a manifesto that basically shaped art as we know it.
Kosuth’s intricate, self-explanatory neon-poems find inspiration in an early personal conception he started to play with in the ‘60s. He thought that art should be “stripped” of personal emotion, being more truthful if it would be reduced to “pure information”. [more]
The Florence-South Baden-based contemporary artist is characterized by the experimental nature of his works. He spent the last thirty years exploring the connection between writing, language and visual art, in which he involved the usage of different media – photography, light and sound installations and videos.
Nannucci’s early neon-poems were done in the ‘60s, which makes him one of the pioneers in this domain. He believes that this manner of poetry display motivated the reader to see, interpret and understand the message behind the text. [more]
Tim Etchells is a UK-based writer and artist. His mostly addressed towards the reader neon-messages speak of interdiction, objection or disappointment. He tackles politics, visions of how the world or society should act and sometimes, he illustrates personal life regrets. He is the artistic director of an experimental performance company called Forced Entertainment.
Etchells has written about contemporary performance, fiction and exhibited visual (video, photography and installations) in various places. He is currently teaching Performance and Writing at Lancaster University. [more]
Tracey Emin is one of the most notorious contemporary artists, with an impressive body of works and a large variety of adopted art genres. She’s been drawing, painting, sculpting, she’s been doing photography and film. She also explored installations, performance and conceptual ramifications such as found-object or fabric art. In 2001 Emin started doing neon poetry, which she continued until 2007.
By this time, she managed to complete few series, some of them inspired by previous paintings. Tracey Emin’s neon installments pointed out taboo subjects, sexuality, while her use of vulgar language and confession-like approach managed to make her works stand out. [more]
The Barcelona-based experimental artists uses poetry, propaganda, street art and television as ingredients for his mixed-media installations. One of his goals is synthesizing mass and personal communication in a perpetual pursuit of generating a new language that would serve as an alternative to nowadays crippled human interaction.
His neon-texts are more like slogans, manifests, rather than poetry, their message having nothing to do with his personal feelings, but personal beliefs. His abstract works have been shown worldwide, more than 40 cities from 5 continents serving as witnesses. [more]
The Newcomers Generation
Robert Montgomery is a London-based poet and sculptor whose installations are mainly personal meditations that approach general ideas about the meaning of life, love or simple metaphors put gorgeously together. Influenced by traditional conceptual art, Montgomery took as well the path of text-art by bringing to life billboards and light pieces.
Apart from amazing us with his exquisite illuminated haiku’s, the artist does also woodcuts and watercolors, exhibited across Europe, USA and Asia. Lately, he’s been also replacing the neon-poems with fire poems – way more savage! [more]
Jung Lee is one of the neon-text newcomers, part of another generation of object poets, more connected to aesthetics and influenced by youth-related subjects: depression, nostalgia, unfulfilled love. The romantic photographer based in Seoul, South-Korea studied Arts in London and came back home to put the Western cultural mainstream to good use.
After 2010, she started creating the light installments that would bring her fame. Inspired by conceptual artists such as John Baldessari or Sophie Calle, Jung Lee’s neon-poems are more empirical, based on thoughts she never speaks and inner desires or visions of personal experiences. [more]
Another actor on the new neon art stage is Olivia Steele, whose indoor and outdoor artworks are each and every one of them implicit statements themselves. According to the American visual artist’s bio, her installations are “always symbolic and irreverent, suspending time and motion”.
Her take on art is characterized by beautiful design, ample atmosphere, highlighting the idea that while the text is an objective layout, the meaning is always interpretable. The provoking neon-poems of Olivia Steele gather around topics like: decay, bliss, sensuality and a higher state of the self. [more]
The Colombian director, filmmaker and visual artist released his short-series of neon-texts – Here Not There – back in 2015 and boy, what a mind-blown they were! His originality resides in the duality of his poems, which means a double amount of awesomeness (or dread, depending on your world perspective).
Camilo makes use of a mirror to play with the letters, resulting this way in two messages with antonymic meaning of the same text. Pure genius, if you ask me. According to AvantGallery, this series of light sculptures “displays differently in the mirror’s reflection, as life reflects unrealized desires of heart, mind and soul”. [more]
Also known as Witchoria, the visual artist graduated Communication Design and is currently living and working in New York. Although she’s never actually created neon installations, her photo-manipulations in this direction undoubtedly deserve to be checked on this list. Starting with twisted landscape collages and incredible futuristic imagery, Victoria’s outstanding body of works covers overall photography and digital remixes.
Witchoria’s ongoing series of neon-texts are basically visual tricks that cover subjects such as heartbreak, existential dread or monotony. [more]
Main photo: Olivia Steele