Richard Tipping's 'artsigns' evolved out of a series of so called 'interventions' on the streets of Adelaide and Sydney during the late 1970s and early 1980s. An 'intervention' entailed Tipping temporarily changing or obscuring text on traffic signs with tape in order to find or create new words with alternative meanings. In doing so, Tipping undermined signage designed to instruct and order people in their day-to-day routines. This irreverent and somewhat profound brand of guerrilla visual poetry prompted viewers to momentarily stop and consider where they are going and why. In his own words:
"The inspiration for these manipulated readywords came from photographing bizarre/ironic/ambiguous signs found in the language landscapes of urban worlds and their connecting roads, as shown in my book of photographs Signs of Australia (Penguin, 1982). I decided to intervene, interact, make my own. Interfering in public space, challenging the glance-quick simplicity and authority of that most urgently important of texts, the roadsign (designed to be viewed, understood, acted upon at speed) is a risk - if it means making extra risk for distracted drivers. When was poetry last blamed for an accident? The resonance has to last, become imbedded, yet be given quick as a wink to people who are going places fast .
Tipping's first intervention took place in Adelaide in 1979 when (perhaps self-consciously referencing his practice), he pulled his car over to the side of the road and altered an 'Airport' sign, so that it read 'Airpoet'. Later, in 1981, 'hump' and 'crossing' signs at Bondi Beach and the Sydney University check-point were amusingly altered to 'hum' and 'sing'. His 'artsigns' have addressed everything from art history ('Caution - there is no avant-garde') to contemporary life ('Reduce need' & 'No understanding'). The artist commissions a professional sign-maker in Newcastle to employ the same materials, colours, and font, as the originals.
1. Richard Tipping in The Sydney Morning Volume III, Thorny Devil Press, 1992
reflective tape on aluminium
81.0 x 81.0 cm
Signature & date
Signed and dated c. verso, incised ".../ Richard Tipping 012/ .../ ... 1981/ ...".
Gift of the artist 2015
Not on display
© Richard Tipping
Shown in 2 exhibitions
Referenced in 1 publication
Stephen Coppel and Richard Tipping, Hear the art, Wangi Wangi, 1997, n.pag. (colour illus.). cat.no. 15; photogrphed in situ