Artist Uses Public Billboards and Recycled Sunlight to Declare Views to the World

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

Robert Montgomery is a man who likes to make his views known. Big time. He has installed three huge billboards in the depths of London's hip east end. They explain, in poetic terms, his thoughts on life, capitalism, Occupy London and getting and spending.

One is illuminated by a solar panel so that it shines in the night. It is on the front of KKOutlet, the London gallery where smaller pieces of his work are on display. The poetry is powered by a large solar panel which "captures" solar energy that is stored in a battery and then distributed to the sign.

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

Montgomery is a Scottish poet, living in London. He presents his work anonymously, outside of gallery conditions. These huge billboards are under a railway bridge, on a busy road. Drivers fly by them, or can briefly absorb them whilst waiting at a stop-light. Some walkers ignore them, others stop and take it all in.

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

What he likes best about this format is that people encounter it without knowing its art. As he says: "They know it's not advertising, and its not graffiti either and they do not need an art history knowledge to read it. I'm super-interested in the ordinary person at the bus stop getting on the bus to their job everyday and suddenly seeing this weird text. I'm interested in reaching those people. They are my primary audience."

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

He is examining: "What it feels like to live in our cities, what it feels like to live with our privilege of wealth and our poverty of time, our privilege of mate."

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

But it is not all political diatribe. Some of the works are quite poetic. His billboard poems, “somewhere between Jenny Holzer and T.S. Eliot” are esoteric and accessible at the same time.

Rob Montgomery explains this work:

"I've lost a couple of really close friends who have died very young. I find ideas of angels and ghosts very comforting in that context. I find the idea that somehow love can triumph over death an idea I need to keep sane. The most uplifting piece I think is the one I showed in Basel this year – THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE BECOME GHOSTS INSIDE OF YOU AND LIKE THIS YOU KEEP THEM ALIVE."

Tags: Advertising | Architecture | Artists | London