Friday 8 April – Monday 16 May 2016
Exhibition of a selection of sign-inspired artwork by Dave Wakely
The Death and Resurrection of Sign Painting
Traditional sign painting, so ‘they’ say, is a dying art. I know this, as ‘they’ keep telling me. Being a sign painter myself, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard that, and thusly have noticed a trend in the tone in which this is said. I detect a tinge of disappointment in the tone of the delivery (adopts South Walian accent) “Oh, sign painter are ew, dyin’ art that is, shame really”, or words to that effect. Much the same way that people talk about the gradual disappearance from our high streets (since the 1980’s) of independently owned and operated shops, a large part of the very fabric of our communities. People speak with a genuine sense of nostalgia (or Hiraeth, but more about that further on) for a time only as far back as a couple of decades ago, where decoratively speaking, painted sign work was much more of a prominent feature of street furniture than it is today. In fact, looking further back, at Walker Evans (1903-1975) photography of signage in 1920’s/30’s America, or of Eugène Atget’s (1857-1927) photography of turn of twentieth century Paris, it was everywhere to be seen. Common people understand the value of a well crafted sign, as one can appreciate its aesthetic beauty without finding it confounding, like is often the case for people who do not have a vested interest in modern art, needing to understand an entire chain of events in order to be able to put it into context, usually resulting in a comment such as ‘kid could do that’. You know where you stand with a nice bit of signage. A good example of this was the news story in August 2014 that during a re-fit, Southport jewellers, Connard & Sons unearthed the original shop signage from the 1920’s, it having been protected from the weather by the replacement sign attached to the front of it, and it looks amazing, nearly a century on. Traditional signage just looks great, where as vinyl signage might well cut costs, but put the two of them together and it’s like parking a Lada next to a Citroën DS….