An important figure in the contemporary art movement in New Zealand, Paul Hartigan has been associated with neon over a career that has seen his work represented in many of the country’s major art institutions and public spaces.
Traditionally used as signage, Hartigan adapted the now century old technology invented by Parisian inventor Georges Claude, into his oeuvre of idiosyncratic light drawings. His first works in neon were realised in the early 1980s.
Most recently Hartigan recycled vintage neon glass from the 1930s to create unique light sculptures infused with the electric liquid light of neon technology. These new works, a radical departure for Hartigan and for neon as a medium, were shown in The Undrawn at Artis Gallery during 2009.
These works were preceded by the Revolution series from 2005-2008. Described by John Hurrell in Art New Zealand as ‘tumbling whorls of hazy chroma’, the swirling neon series protrude from the wall with sculptural presence, the complexity of shape adding a depth and delicacy to the work not often associated with the medium.
Paul Hartigan is represented in major national collections including Te Papa Tongarewa, Auckland Art Gallery, the Sarjeant and Govett-Brewster Art Galleries. His large-scale neon installations can be seen on permanent display at the University of Auckland (Colony, 2004) and the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery (Pathfinder, 1997).
These works started life as off-cuts of neon glass that I wanted to recycle, so it’s a kind of resurrection going on here – waste pieces taking on a new form or life.
I would set out with a plan in mind, but I didn’t know the destination. It’s exciting not knowing where I’m going until I get there, but there are pitfalls by the ton…
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