The Walls We Make Whilst Dreaming of Escape
Richard William Wheater
In homage to artist Fred Tschida’s 1980 performance in which he attached a 22-ft neon mast to his car roof and drove across the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, USA.
Translating this action onto a local stretch of the Aire & Calder Navigation canal, a small dinghy was kitted out with a modified neon-clad mast, generator and outboard petrol motor.
The lyrics of 1985 hit Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears, became a mantra for the artist, verbalising what Wheater was driven to do visually: to express the feeling of helplessness in being part of a global problem: “It’s my own design / It’s my own remorse / Help me to decide”
The long-exposure photographs capture the movement of the boat and its neon mast through time, creating a translucent wall of light that appears to smother the trees and scrub on the canal bank. Neon glows red in its purest form, but here the colour also works to emphasise the heat and destructive power of the engine and fumes.
Everybody Wants To Rule The World was described by the band as a pretty song with a dark theme: a fitting description for this work.
“Help me make the most of freedom and of pleasure / Nothing ever lasts forever”
Listen to the song on Spotify
About the artist
Richard William Wheater (1978, Wakefield) is an artist using performance and installation to discuss our relationship with the natural environment. Work often remains loyal – but not exclusive to – his fascination with glass and neon, of which he performs and exhibits worldwide. In 2008 he represented Britain at the European Glass Biennale (Denmark), and in 2009 was nominated for the Northern Art Prize. A book was published in 2010 by Yorkshire Sculpture Park on his project; Them And Us. More recently Wheater was selected for the Jerwood Contemporary Makers Prize and the Craft Councils touring show; Acts of Making (2015).
In 2010 Wheater set up the company Neon Workshops. Its aim is to educate and encourage the use of neon art through a wider demographic.
Find out more about Richard William Wheater
Find out more about Neon Workshops
The Walls We Make Whilst Dreaming of Escape can be seen from The Art House gallery windows, overlooking Mulberry Way. Plan your visit.
Lyrics written by Roland Orzabal, Ian Stanley and Chris Hughes
Commissioned by The Art House
Photography by Jonty Wilde