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The past, present and future of neon signs

Design publication Eye is taking a focus on neon signs for its quarterly event to help raise funds for the St Bride Foundation.

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The event will feature talks from the founders of Warsaw’s Neon Muzeum

The magazine’s Type Tuesday events take a focus on a particular area of type, design, printing and visual culture. Having featured neon signs on a number of front covers, Eye editor John Walters realised the publication had never explored the art of neon sign-making in depth before.

Neon! Names in lights will bring together figures still working in, or working to preserve, the art of neon sign-making, including Ilona Karwinska and David Hill who founded the Neon Muzeum in Warsaw, Poland.

Karwinska, a photographer, began documenting and preserving Poland’s Cold War-era neon signs in 2005 alongside Hill, a graphic designer.

During the ‘Khrushchev Thaw’ of the 1950s and 60s, often referred to as a period of relative creative freedom in the Eastern Bloc, Poland was saturated with neon signs in an attempt to ape the consumerism of Western Europe.

 

Neon Specialists’ work for artist Tracey Emin, George Loves Kenny, 2007

The ‘neonisation’ of Poland saw artists and graphic designers commissioned to create neon signs that would bring colour back to a country almost destroyed by war and transform its grey cityscapes.

Kerry Ryan of Neon Specialists will also be at the event, discussing his career as a neon expert and his ambitions for the future of neon education. Ryan began his career as an apprentice in the 1980s, but now his work sees him commissioned to produce neon signs for artists such as Tim Noble and Tracey Emin.

The event will conclude with a panel discussion on neon typography and design, chaired by Walters. All proceeds go to the St Bride Foundation, an organisation originally set up to serve the print and publishing industries in the early days which is now finding a new contemporary audience from the worlds of design, print and typography.

Type Tuesday: Neon! Names in lights takes place on September 3rd at the St Bride Foundation, from 7pm until 9.30pm. Tickets for the event cost £12.50, £10 for concession and Friends of St Bride, and are available to buy through the Eye website or via the St Bride Foundation’s events page.

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