Elizabeth Farrelly on sign artworks of Richard Tipping

β€œIt's the unexpectedness and the weird subversive fresh sweetness of these things which is so charming. I like their wry humour and their hovering between a kind of cartoon quippery and an existential comment, which makes them light and serious at the same time.”

Elizabeth Farrelly is an architect, and a social commentator with The Sydney Morning Herald. From her opening address at Tipping's exhibition No King, at ArtHere Gallery, Sydney, 2012

Invitation numberplate for solo show Versions at Ubu Gallery in New York 1999. Pressed aluminium,   7.5 x 10 cm. Edition of 3000. The Stature of Liberty on the NYC car numberplate is replaced by Alfred Jarry's drawing of Pa Ubu. This work lead to a working with the sign factory in New York State to make many different designs, from 1999 to present. Four are currently available through the Museum of Modern Art's MoMA Store both in-store and on-line (where only three are shown)

Signed Signs  -  the Roadsigned series


"The simple graphic authority of the standard roadsign provides a potent ground for manipulation and intervention. The obviousness and familiarity of the forms of the signs creates a street language with an embedded vernacular. Some of my actions have been illicit, literally altering signs in situ (such as with Airpoet, Sing, Art Freeway and Form 1 Planet) but only once or twice per sign. These were then photographed in the particular circumstances of their embodiment, and later manufactured to the exact specifications in the correct materials as limited editions for exhibition in an art gallery context.

The more recent works have included political issues where rather than changing single or simple graphic elements on an existing sign, a new sign is invented in the style of public language. For example, Exit Strategy was my protest against the USA's (and Australia's) planned invasion of Iraq in 2003. Wrong Day resounds with how a lot of us feel reading the international news. But these are not straight forward political comments: they are meant as eye-openers, as catalysts for discussion. The viewer/reader makes their own poem from their response to the gestalt, the gesture of the new sign. The insertion of (even bitter) humour, the disruption of the expected, the subterfuge of the sign re-signed, the reinvented sign. All of this has been an aspect of my word work since 1979, so it's a shock to realise that over 35 years has rolled by and Airpoet still looks fresh.”    Richard Tipping

Shown is a small selection of Tipping's Signed Signed and Roadsigned series (1979 to present)









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Airpoet, the first Roadsigned intervention, Adelaide 1979