“Neon was used as the sign for forbidden pleasures – from ice-cream parlours to strip clubs,” says Turner Prize-winning artist Douglas Gordon. “It is seductive, and at the same time there’s a warning… It represents danger, both visually but also chemically. The arcing electricity will fry you to death for inappropriate thought…” Gordon is one of a number of contemporary artists who use neon – from Tracey Emin’s handwritten sentences to Mary Weatherford’s canvas and strip lighting combinations. It first made its mark in the art world in the 1960s – pioneered by the likes of Joseph Kosuth and Bruce Nauman – and its presence at the moment is particularly playful.


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