Neon’s extraordinary brightness and phosphorescence have repeatedly characterized it in the past century as a synonym of artificiality, futurism and even the supernatural. But by creating organically shaped concentric circles that mimic the natural shape of trees’ annual growth rings, American artist Keith Lemley has sublimely managed to dispute this connotation.
The installation’s name Something and Nothing stems from Lemley’s fascination with neon as a way to allow him to manipulate light itself and to create phenomenological experiences. This is indicative of the wider pursuit of his art: challenging the physicality of material presence by creating a relationship between his objects and space; an interest persisting from his background in science and engineering.
And though these may seem fanciful claims, his art admirably succeeds in conveying them.
Whilst he had been experimenting with pairing neon and wood for years prior, with Something and Nothing Lemley achieved a symbiosis that distilled a completely innovative strength of expression from the analogy: growing around elm logs the organic neon circles come to represent something of the likes of the invisible force that binds the entire universe.
What is most striking, however, is that Something and Nothing elaborates on the character of trees’ annual growth to create a representation of the unison of space and time – through light.
If you are in Cleveland, rush to the Sculpture Centre, his exhibition is closing tomorrow!