Conceptual artist, Olivia Steele (* 1985) uses neon lighting to charge spaces with ironic and spiritual meaning. A native of Nashville, Tennessee and resident of London and Berlin, Steele’ s work ranges from small to large installations that employ the traditional commercial medium of neon glass to make intimate statements and to question modern culture. Steele relishes the idea of contrast and contradiction, and toys with our innate preconceptions. The juxtaposition of the neon statement and the environment it is placed in, challenges conventional semiotics and evokes a wide range of interpretations.
In dialogue with mediums such as facades, rivers, taxidermy and photographs she tells short stories that evoke thought while enlightening the scenery with elaborate handwritings in neon glass. Olivia Steele also uses iconic images such as exploding atomic bombs or the seemingly sacred cross along with deep personal sentiments to jar the viewer beyond the everyday. The nature of her content is both provocative and reflective as her work asks the viewer to consider the hidden emotions and unforseen forces in a moment of reflection.
Vowing to return neon to its roots, a selection of Steele’s recent works were erected in connected public spaces around London for an exhibition entitled „Public Display of Affection“ during the Frieze Art Fair 2011. Glowing handwritten statements form a trail of art to be sought out and followed. From an East London lingerie shop to a historical religous landmark, over the Mile End foot bridge and above ordinarily dingy public toilets, her artworks have become beacons spanning the city – a yellow brick road of illuminating lyrical sculpture.
„Good, bad, right or wrong, it’ s all relative. Art is notoriously ambiguous. The art of challenging conventional semiotics and observing the vast spectrum of strangers’ reactions and interpretations is highly rewarding“, says the artist.