I didn’t really have a good idea of what Galleries were in the area, that had a collection of contemporary art. I found this article in the Guardian on-line which recommended the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham. So I went along and found an exhibition by contemporary British Artist Fiona Banner.
Here’s two pieces of particular interest, it’s worth noting now only one of them really focuses on the theme of ‘time/place’, I wasn’t sure that any of her other pieces focused on that theme so I chose a piece that was of interest.
Font, 2015 by Fiona Banner
You can see a better photo of Fiona Banner’s piece Font, 2015, here.
This marble font was placed in the hallway as you entered the main exhibition space. At first I thought it might be a coin collection point and then I noticed the carved lettering, each letter a from a different typeface. I found the use of the word font on a baptismal font playful, amusing, how she’d referenced the formation of lettering and language. We often have words in our language which have dual meanings, making learning our language a complex process.
The guide to the exhibition helpfully explains Banner’s choice of ‘Font’ for the piece. It’s typeset in ‘Font’ a typeface of Banner’s creation. Which she describes as:
“a family tree arrangement where the child of Avant Garde and Courier mates with Peanuts and Didot’s child. Bookman and Onyx mate;their child mates with Capitalist and Klang’s offspring – the final font is an unpredictable bastardisation of styles and behaviours”.
I studied Graphic Design as a previous module so it was really interesting to see an contemporary artist make use of typefaces as art in this way. All the text in the galleries and in the guide (even on the Ikon webpage) is set in her typeface. It makes for awkward reading, which is of course the point. She has managed to manipulate our reading and therefore our understanding of the language. A theme which she explores heavily throughout the exhibition.
The Vanity Press 2013
You can see the original, The Vanity Press, 2013 here.
I’ll be honest I had two motivations for focusing on the piece above. Firstly, I find Neon signs fascinating, I studied these too in my Graphic design module. Secondly this piece does deal with the theme of place.
The piece itself is a neon sign, hand bent by the artist in her amalgamation font, displayed in an perspex box. But the light is connected to a dimmer of sorts, so the Neon decreases and increases in brightness.
The Neon sign of an ISBN number is registered as a publication under the name The Vanity Press, so it exists as a sculptural piece and publication. I think this means it exists in two places or states, it exists or inhabits a place as an artwork but also as a publication, something catalogued or collected.
The medium itself is an interesting choice, her hand crafting of the sign lends a fragile edge. It is not what we expected from the medium which have grown accustomed to seeing formed so precisely into a variety of type-forms to stand above shops and businesses. Her rough approach I think adds a sense of frailty and vulnerability to the piece. You feel it might break at any point, rather than blaze on defiantly.
Neon Signs are a reoccurring medium for Banner, she explores language through the form of Neon but also visual language, in the form of symbols or illustrations, see Beagle Punctuation, 2011, Navel, One full stop 2008, The Bastard Word, 2007.
I think it might be worth me mentioning I made a deliberate choice note to pay too much close attention to her work that was of a more Adult content. I think for me this falls into the category of art for the sake of shock factor, and I find it to be content which I don’t want to take time considering. It gets an instant reaction, but I’m not sure what it’s for beyond that. I feel like it’s somewhat unnecessary work considering she’s clearly capable of creating work which makes you consider themes like, language, conflict, place, without having to enter into the explicit. Anyway that’s my personal preference, I’ll leave it there for now.