Project 3: Research Point 2

We are asked to read an article on the Tate website, make notes, and highlight any artists we might want to look into further.

This is not the original article, as it has been taken down, but one detailed in the course errata. All the same, it was a very useful introduction to many artists who use text in their work, and the different types of text usage. Here are some notes I made:

‘Found’ Words: Printed Packaging, Labels and Layers

  • Add visual interest to work
  • Kurt Schwitters added bus tickets, sweet wrappers and other scraps to his works
  • Pop artists used product packaging, logos and mass-produced products
  • Mimmo Rotella ripped down advertising posters and often rearranged the pieces and/or stripped away further layers

Words and Shapes

  • Concrete poetry arranges words and letters in a visual way, like sculptures made of words

Words That Tell Stories

  • Words are used linguistically to create narratives
  • Fiona Banner recounts film plots or other events
  • Tom Phillips used ‘found’ narratives as a starting point, painting directly onto book pages
  • Text can be used alongside photography to tell stories
  • Words can mingle with images, revealing personal thoughts, feelings and diary-type narratives

Words and Ideas

  • Conceptual artists use text to explore ideas as the best way to get their idea across is often with words
  • Ewa Partum combined performance art with poetry, scattering cut-out letters and then using them to create poems
  • Words can be used to in art to explore language and how it’s used
  • Bruce Nauman merged words in a neon sign to create a ‘word sound poem’
  • Ed Ruscha combined well-known phrases with unrelated backgrounds like mountain ranges

A Call to Action: Posters, Flyers, and Signs

  • Guerilla Girls used facts, humour and simple language on their posters and letters that highlighted sexism and racism in the art world
  • Jenny Holzer used billboards, T-shirts, hats, stickers, flyers and posters to get across her messages about socio-political issues
  • Bob and Roberta Smith (AKA Patrick Brill)’s text paintings examine life, politics, and art. Often painted on scraps of wood using household paint, he aims to encourage people to ‘…construct their own realities and world…’

Of all the artists mentioned in the article, Tom Phillips was my favourite. There was something really beautiful about his paintings on pages of books. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m a librarian, or studying creative writing, that called to me, but I’d like to investigate them more.

Bruce Nauman was the most confusing. The piece mentioned in the article made sense (VIOLINS VIOLENCE SILENCE (1981-2)), but a quick look at some of his other pieces left me wondering what they all meant. I actually love the idea of neon signs as art. I’ve always loved glow sticks, and they remind me of neon lights, but I wonder if Bruce’s pieces might look better in a darker environment. To be quite honest, some of them were just flashing lights. I couldn’t tell which bits were illuminated as the other bits were distracting. I could see that many of them seemed to be about sex in some way, but that was it. Even so, it’s something I’d like to investigate further, if only to understand what I was looking at.

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