Nathan Coley, who was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2007, has been working in Glasgow, Scotland, for over 25 years. Like many artists, he avoids characterization and “dislike[s] most terminology that describes art practice in any way.” His sculptures and illuminated text constructions, photographs, drawings, and videos tackle a range of ideas, frequently focusing on how the built environment and public space are invested, and reinvested, with meaning. These works often read like poetry, evocative and evasive, promoting instability and the unexpected over clarity and concrete interpretation. As intimations of how architecture and other things in the world manifest beliefs, they can prompt strong emotions and sometimes a touch of melancholy. Mystery is another important element. To this day, In Memory (2010), a carefully tended graveyard permanently installed at Jupiter Artland in Edinburgh, remains unexplained and resonantly powerful.
Robert Preece: What brought you to use signage, and what do you see yourself as adding to that discourse?
Nathan Coley: There is a long line of conceptual artists using neon in contemporary art, creating a clear reference to advertising—artists like Joseph Kosuth, Bruce Nauman, and Tracey Emin. When I made There Will Be No Miracles Here back in 2006, I wanted to sit outside that discussion somewhat . . .
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