Love & Lust

Why use text in art?

by Emily Pitts on November 28, 2011

in Love & Lust, Other Things, Provocative, Text Art

I am frequently asked about why I use words in my artworks.

I love language – its construction, its foibles and the complex layers of meaning that can lie within a single phrase or sentence.  In 2000 I did an art foundation course and it was then that I started making work with text – using images with juxtaposed words – investigating the engendering of objects through single words – how meaning, and what people see, change according to words.   At the time it was also a way of creating a more democratic art – outside of the gallery, being able to have a voice within art, but unconstrained by rigid societal norms of the gallery space.  This still holds true to some degree – working with text liberates me, as an artist.  I feel that I can define my own parameters and develop my own conventions.

The way that I work with text and how I develop and create work, revolves around an idea, – perhaps a profound truth or question that is generated by an action or activity or place that I find myself in.  Sometimes the text comes first – the words swim around my head and I re-work them, think about what it is that the words mean and convey, or what they could convey depending on how they are presented.  In this instance, where I have the words, I will search through a whole arsenal of materials and visual representations, sometimes for weeks.  Sometimes I don’t know how to make what I have in my head, so it stews and I have to be patient and wait for the opportunity to present itself to me to finish the idea.

In contrast at other times I can see a material and a light pings on in my head and I think ‘I can say something with that, I can use it and develop some words to say what I mean’ – the two go together: the material and the words.  At other times again, I have a thought and to describe the thought visually I work hard to bring some words to it – more often than not I have to pare down and keep minimising – too many words saying nothing.  Again, the material and the words go together – they sit hand in hand and evolve.

There is a definite bombardment of our visual landscape with text; words instructing us to ‘do this’ and ‘do that’, telling us who we are and what we should be doing – very much instructional.  I think that’s why I prefer pared-down phrases and short sentences – really simple to look at, but belying a complexity under the surface – the saying is that a picture paints a thousand words, but sometimes, a sentence can pose a thousand questions – it just depends what the words are and what they’re make of – they’re a three dimensional thing to me.  Even works like the ‘flat’ laser-cut perspex installations, which I made for the Chorlton Arts Festival earlier this year, have a three dimensional quality that was really important when I was developing the idea and making them – those edges are intrinsic – the colour produced at the edges of the perspex are integral to the reading of the text and the layers of meaning within the installation.

I suppose that the text is so familiar to us that, for me, it’s too good a tool not to use to challenge and re-frame whatever it is that you want to discuss as an artist.

In terms of materials, I like to investigate and make materials look different to how I have seen them before – that’s a challenge in itself – to me and to people looking at it.  I am very regularly asked specifically how I make things and I think in that there is a deeper discussion about pushing boundaries personally.  I run art classes and as we talk about materials and the students see work in the studio it dawns that experimentation is the way to explore, develop and become more enlightened – I think that about life beyond art.

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  • Acrylic on box canvas
  • 61cm x 30.5cm

This new artwork developed from previous work entitled ‘I just love you’.  The work, on a smaller scale than the previous work, uses a dark red/ pink as the base colour, with rainbow colours dispersed throughout the painting, giving a nod to sexual diversity.  Originally inspired by Derek Jarman’s work at Manchester City Art Gallery, this uses text as a central link between the viewer and the work.

The work discretely deals with the conflict between marriage and civil partnerships, with reference to marriage through use of the words ‘I do’ carved into the rainbow coloured canvas.  For non-heterosexual people, marriage is not an option – ‘I do’ doesn’t exist in the same way, but rather sets the LGBT community apart from heterosexuals.  Many see this as an unacceptable and unequal status, which must be changed.

Price: £125

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I Can’t get you out of my Head

by Emily Pitts on September 23, 2010

in Latest For Sale, Love & Lust, Provocative

  • Acrylic medium, hair & glue on box canvas
  • 61cm x 30.5cm

This new work uses real hair, sewn into the canvas in patterns that create the words ‘ I can’t get you out of my head’.  The hair is both appealing in the shapes that it creates, swirling and twirling like an ornate typeface, but at the same time repugnant and repellant when you get up close and see each stray strand wild and free – wafting in the breeze.

Price: £450

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Untitled (I Just Love You)

by Emily Pitts on September 20, 2010

in Latest For Sale, Love & Lust

  • Acrylic on canvas
  • 91.5cm x 152.5cm

The production of this canvas was inspired by my visit to Manchester Pride’s Out in the city event and the discussion surrounding the development of art and readings of art alongside the opening up of freedom of expression for gay people. The colour of the canvas makes reference to Derek Jarman’s work ‘Queer’, which is housed at Manchester’s City Art Gallery, offering a counterpoint to the male dominated discourse on sexuality which prevails in many public institutions. The multitude of shades of colour and the delicate intersperses of rainbow colours brings more subtlety to the work, indicating a link between homosexual love and the words below, but perhaps acknowledging the spectrum of difference within the lesbian and gay community itself – sexuality cannot be pigeon-holed in the way that society would like it to be.

I have a great interest in words and how we use them. Words fail to fully and wholly describe our exact meanings, leading to mis-communication and confusion. In the case of this work the word ‘just’ brings into question the meaning of the statement as a whole. Taken out of context and away from verbal and body language the statement languishes at the bottom of the sheet, as if the thought has been dragged out of the expressor; the word ‘just’ somehow diminishing the statement to a disposable romantic narrative. The way that the words are scrawled nonchalantly across the canvas, gouging out the paint, hints at a kind of carelessness or reticence, alluding to the difficulties involved in expressions of love.

Price: SOLD
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We Didn’t Work (triptych)

by Emily Pitts on September 16, 2010

in Latest For Sale, Love & Lust

  • Acrylic on box canvas
  • 3 canvas: 50.8cm x 76.2cm each

This Triptych shows a split second in a relationship filled with conflict and emotional charge, with a chasm between the two bodies that bleeds across and penetrates both. Gouged textures move across the canvases, catching the light and tempting the viewer to touch the paintings.  They offer a tactile and sensory experience, with extraordinary vivid colours, which entice you to come closer.  The deep globules of paint appear shiny and hardly set – irresistibly appealing to those who long to touch.


Price: £395
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