Language is at the heart of our existence so it’s little wonder, that many artists have incorporated it into their work. Since the mid 20th-century, there’s been an explosion of text-based art, challenging perceptions through a mix of bold phrases and beautiful letter forms. Explore a hand-picked selection below and use the code TYPE10 for 10% off the works included...
Viewing Room Public
1 Jun 2021
A look at art's obsession with the written word.
The Connor Brothers
Text is at the heart of The Connor Brothers' practice. The artists refashion Penguin book covers and cheap 1950s paperbacks with new, conversation-distilling slogans. The resulting paintings and editions take a light-hearted approach to being more emotionally open whilst being relatable and humorous.
"The British are known for their dark self-deprecating humour and this reflects the art we make. It is also a useful distraction from our inability to draw well.”
Mike Snelle of The Connor Brothers
Though bold typefaces make an impactful visual statement, a more freestyle approach has the effect of seemingly giving the viewer access to the inner workings of the artist’s mind. This is evident in some of Tracey Emin’s recent works, where uplifting messages in characterful handwriting accompany her drawings, filling them with love and hope. The fluid writing is at odds with her earlier pieces, where upper case letters shouted tragic statements – the change in styles conveys her developing story.
Whilst Fishlock's art is always evolving, one thing that remains a constant is his fascination with words and the letterforms that comprise them. The message can often be dark but the method of delivery is always playful.
Careful consideration is always given to the selection of words, which tend to allude to a fairly misanthropic, dystopian world-view. This establishes a striking contrast between the subject matter and the dazzling and aesthetically pleasing visual language.
“There’s a dark humour that runs through both these artist’s work and it never fails to make me smile. Miller is renowned for his witty quips and Fishlock uses punchy single words that create an abstract yet sensical statement. Aesthetically, they’re very different, but both are very accessible.”
Charlotte Bain, Business Development Manager
Another artist who turns expectations on their head with just one font is British artist, Harland Miller. Drawing on the familiarity of the visual language used in books, Miller adds unexpected and irreverent slogans to much-loved formats, creating a tension between what’s on the canvas and what the reader anticipates.
Did you know?
Miller is also an acclaimed author. His novel, Slow Down Arthur, Stick To Thirty is a surreal, 1980s, coming-of-age story.
Detail of Lauren Baker's neon 'Together We Will Burn Brighter'.
Baker employs text in her art to explore the fragility and intensity of life. With a focus on energy, her neon sculptures and limited editions spread positive messages and mantras in her signature handwriting.
Another artist with instantly recognisable writing is David Shrigley, whose upper-case slogans and crossings out speak of the sublime and the ridiculous. So beloved is Shrigley’s writing that designers have made unofficial fonts which mimic his letter forms, and devotees can buy their own pencils and have a go at imitating the artist’s trademark caps-lock-satire themselves.
Winner of the 2003 Turner Prize, Perry often employs text in his work to explore challenging themes; at the heart of his practice is a passionate desire to comment on deep flaws within society.
Selfie with Political Causes by Grayson Perry on display at Hang-Up.
Selfie with Political Causes
- Colour etching on paper
- Signed and numbered by the artist
- 102 x 70 cm
- Edition of 68
POA | £10,000 – £20,000
Grayson Perry – Selfie with Political Causes
Exhibited at the RA Summer Show 2018, the etching shows Perry riding a motorbike, with right-on slogans fluttering around him. The artist comments about the work “It’s a reaction to the way that politics has become very fashionable in art. I often want to go: ‘Wow, yes! I really agree with you, thanks for telling us about global warming, I’d never have guessed!’”
Conceptual Art pioneer Mel Bochner has devoted most of his career tp exploring the medium of words. The artist creates breathless renderings from a mish mash of synonyms and modern phrases.
Obsessed with UK pop culture, Vessey creates photographic prints of lovingly curated records, magazines, books and more. As the viewer reads through the titles included in these collections, displayed in a stack, a unique portrait of the era, genre or collector is formed.
The multidisciplinary artist is interested in the gap between language and less tangible forms of communication and often uses words to explore male image and identity.
Archer's work combines nostalgic imagery drawn from her collection of items from popular culture with contrasting witticisms, and can sometimes be spotted pasted onto advertising hoardings on the streets of London and Manchester.
Read more about artists' use of text in our editorial below...
18 May 2021
Since the mid 20th-century, there’s been an explosion of word-based art, with makers challenging perceptions through a mix of bold phrases and beautiful letter forms that convey everything from motherly love to political anger. Read on for more on the artists who’ve shaped the movement...