Wallpaper - May 2009

Trail Blazer

Milan is radiating with an inner-city glow thanks to a fantastical neon sculpture by Cerith Wyn Evans. The general perception when it comes to neon is that night-time is always the right time. Cerith Wyn Evans would disagree.

Artificial lighting, according to the Welsh artist, is often more compelling by day. And he can prove it.

Commissioned by Euroluce for the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, Wyn Evans has created a vast and spurious neon light sculpture called I=N=V=O=C=A=T=I=O=N (I call your image to mind), and he would strongly urge visitors to go and see it in bright sunshine as well as after dark.

An ambitious installation at any time of the day, Wyn Evans’s Milan work is a giant suspended cloud of neon tubing which measures about 7m across. It promises to be a striking sculpture whatever the weather too.‘There is something so beautiful about sunlight on neon,’ says the artist. ‘Something wonderful about the contrast of nature and artifice. Light changes constantly. It feeds the soul.’ Wyn Evans is a surprising choice for Euroluce, not least because the artist rarely engages in the production of public artwork. ‘I usually try not to do it’, he explains. ‘It’s tacky. I try to maintain some integrity - I want to work some witchcraft. I am not part of that celebrity culture because I believe that you live longer if you don't speak too often,’ he says. In this case, however, he has been prepared to make an exception - for one thing, the commission comes from an unusual client: ‘It’s exciting to work in the context of a huge commercial art fair. This project is a complex proposition that crosses the threshold between theatre, art, design and technology,’ he says. 

Wyn Evans has always been fascinated by neon, characteristically suspending the material to form an abstract space, as a contrast to the way it is normally used in advertising signs. Known for his focus on language as much as his preoccupation with perception, the artist’s descriptions of his work never fail to satisfy even the most verbose critics. When it comes to the Milan sculpture, he readily compares  the work to fireflies and fireworks, and perhaps most evocatively to ‘the scan of a mobile telephone attempting to memorialise the vapours of a jet stream high above’ This is, he says, ‘an attempt to occupy space with light; the trajectories of these lines form digital scars. I am interested in how they suggest other forms of space and are burned in our memory before fading away.’ 

Like all Wyn Evans’s neon artworks, this installation has been created in collaboration with Dusty Sprengnagel. A photographer and designer in his own right, Sprengnagel interprets the artist’s sketches into luminescent form at Neon Line, his dedicated workshop in Vienna. Sprengnagel ‘enjoys transforming an abstract idea into a technically viable solution’ and realising the neon object so that it interacts with its environment. By day and by night, together their neon lights shine on.* 

I=N=V=O=C=A=T=I=O=N, Milan, from 22 April to 31 May


Above, three versions of Wyn Evans’s artwork for this month’s Wallpaper* cover and his neon sculpture for Milan’s Salone design fair.
Below, the artist’s final artwork for this issue’s limited edition cover.

original article as PDF download