The text-based artworks of Robert Montgomery are commonly seen on the streets of European cities, in place of billboard advertisements. They disrupt the consumerist discourse, delivering situationist messages that pertain to nature, society, or the contemporary human psyche. Conjuring broader perspectives in space and time, Montgomery drives a wedge into the immediacy of advertising imagery, attempting to connect with individuals intimately. “At its best,” he says, “art is an intimate conversation with strangers, one at a time, heart-to-heart.”
An avid reader of Guy Debord, the British artist is interested in “what it feels like on the inside to live in Late-Capitalism”. Often poetic, his works are displayed in a variety of mediums: posters, LED signs, woodwork set on fire in the context of performances. In his studio, he turns to painting, watercolor or wood carving. Tinted with melancholy, his words are sometimes charged with a sense of existential doom. Sometimes also beaming with hope. Ecology, war, apathy, alienation are some of his recurrent themes, with this underlying idea that “art can be transformative”. “I think we are in a trauma collectively.” A trauma filled with artificial desires in which people find themselves estranged from the real world. “I think art can give us some kind of therapy that we desperately need.”
Influenced early on by poets like Philip Larkin, Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes or Guillaume Apollinaire, his work is nourished by twentieth-century avant-gardes tied to conceptual art, in particular by Joseph Beuys and Lawrence Weiner, but also by political graffiti and surrealist graffiti. Never signed, his textual works cannot be easily identified as one voice. “It's not my voice. It is the voice of the collective unconscious in my head.” A polyphonous œuvre where the notion of a shared reality is enhanced, as if the poems of Robert Montgomery emanated from everyone.
Robert Montgomery was born in Chapelhall, Scotland, in 1972. He was selected to represent the United Kingdom at the Lyon Biennale of contemporary art (France) in 2011, the Kochi Biennale (India) in 2012, and the Yinchuan Biennale (China) in 2016. He has produced large-scale light installations in the public space in various European cities like Berlin, London, Paris, Athens, and more. His work has been presented at the Aspen Art Museum (USA), the Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center (USA), or the Cer Modern Museum (Ankara, Turkey). His works are in the permanent collections of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts and the Albright Knox Museum (USA). He lives in London.