Inside the Collection

Road signs as art

'Sing' crossing sign manipulated by Richard Tipping
97/6/1 Road sign, manipulated ‘Sing’by Richard Tipping, NSW, 1982-97. Collection Powerhouse Museum

Surrounded by signs in our daily city existence sometimes we notice them, hopefully when driving or crossing the road. But often they meld into an overall of street scenery. There is an abundance of signs in urban landscapes as captured by photographer David Mist in the 1960s pictured below.

Advertising signs in Surry Hills
David Mist archive: 96/44/1-5/4/12/3 Advertising signs in Surry Hills. Powerhouse Museum

Artist Richard Tipping has isolated the ordinary directional street sign and played with its imagery and language to create visual puns.

Tipping is known as a ‘visual poet’, he describes his work as ‘concrete poetry’, or poetry which appreciates words and even letters for the way they look, their aesthetic appeal as art objects. This is a unique commentary on Australian signage and public space. These manipulated road signs are a continuing theme in Tipping’s visual punning and urban commentary.

These otherwise standard street signs completely alter the space they occupy. By physically altering existing signage and by inventing new signage using the standard design format as a template. They create fresh meanings and offer different ways of seeing our directional landscape.

'Form 1 Planet' road sign by Richard Tipping
2005/235/1 Road sign, manipulated, ‘FORM 1 PLANET’, designed by Richard Tipping,N S W, 1983-1992. Collection Powerhouse Museum

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