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and technical knowledge he is quick to credit. The Workshop was set up with the aim of serving the creative community, both by allowing artists to come and learn about the medium and by providing facilities and expertise to help them realise their own neon works. For Wheater, the Neon Workshop feeds and supports his own work as an artist – quite literally in the case of 12 Months..., which is installed on the workshop roof. Whilst he isn’t bound exclusively to light art, neon remains central to his work, with the light source often incorporated into one-off per- formance pieces. “A lot of people would say that neon is a real marriage between science and art and I certainly come at it from the arts back- ground,” he explains. For 2009’s Disappearing Paths, Wheater took a series of stepladders and shrouded them in neon. Set to Avo Pärt classical piece Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten, the illuminated steps were then switched off one by one until the last note sounded and the audience were left in total darkness. “It’s a really odd piece,” says Wheater of the music that both inspired and accom-


panied the work. “It gets louder, but it’s also scaling down all the time as though it’s coming to an end right from the very beginning.” Disappearing Paths translates this imagery into physical form, starting in a blaze of lights and then building the dark by a process of simplification and subtraction. “I wanted people not to fear the darkness, but to embrace it and just feel humbled by it,” he explains. Most recently, Wheater was among ten artists and designers selected for the Lux Craft event during last year’s London Design Festival. His piece, I’m Electric, You’re Electric, took a set of industry standard insulator discs of the kind used at electric- ity substations and illuminated each one with a slightly different tone of neon from warm white through to electric blue. The piece was spotted by the manager of Dam- ian Hirst’s Other Criteria gallery leading to a commission for a second, linear version of the piece. For Wheater, it has provided an invalu- able push, moving him further into the art establishment and providing further proof of neon’s strangely seductive power. www.richardwheater.com


Top left 2010’s Disappearing Paths inspired by a classical piece composed by Avo Pärt. Photograph: David Lindsay.


Above (top) A linear version of I’m Electric, You’re Electric hangs in the Other Criteria gallery. Photograph: Other Criteria.


Above (middle) Wheater’s collaboration with Victoria Lucas, 12 Months of Neon Love, sits on the roof of the Neon Workshop in Wakefield. Photograph: Victoria Lucas.


Above (bottom) For two weeks in 2009, Wheater set up a neon workshop at the Site Gallery in Sheffield, inviting the public to watch him develop his neon skills. He asked visitors for their impressions of neon and used their words to create lettering for the gallery walls. Photograph: David Lindsay.


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