Collected by celebrities including Sir Elton John, Sting, Boy George and Anthea Turner, the art of Illuminati Neon (aka Mark Sloper) draws on the cultural vibes of West London. Influenced by the punk movement of the 1970s and 80s, these fluorescent creations are just as anarchical as their namesake.
Mark was born into a long line of painters, many of whom had flocked to his birthplace of St Ives, Cornwall, to become artists. After a chance encounter with the new wave musician Adam Ant at the age of just 11, he became drawn to the punk subculture and its expression of working-class angst.
His studies at art college were interspersed with frequent trips to London, where the punk scene was alight. There, he made friends with some of the movement's pioneers and troubadours, including the Sex Pistols and the Stranglers, who remain close friends to this day. A career in videography beckoned, and Mark went on to work as a cameraman and a director of photography for bands like the Police and Frankie Goes to Hollywood before joining the BBC.
During his successful film career, Mark has directed and produced documentaries on Billy Fury, the Beatles, John Lennon, David Bowie, Sid Vicious, the Sex Pistols and more. These legendary figures, along with his friend and fellow neon artist Chris Bracey, inspired Mark to create the Illuminati Neon brand.
Featuring punk-inspired imagery emblazoned with familiar lyrics and the language of the subculture, his works often incorporate artefacts and memorabilia from the era, including flags and t-shirts. True to his punk rock roots, Mark combines montage, typography, graphic art and neon to channel not just his own narrative but the chorus and chaos of a generation.
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All of Mark’s original artworks are hand-painted using acrylics or oils and he uses jewels and gold leaf as finishing elements to create complexity and make each piece unique. His handblown glass neon is formed using a centuries-old technique. This involves delicately bending the glass under a temperature of 500˚C and compressing gas within the tubes before using electric transformers to ignite it and create an organic glow. The true colour of neon is red, so Mark uses powder-coated neon tubes filled with argon (a chemical element) to produce a spectrum of colours.
Mark’s influences include the iconic neon artist Chris Bracey. He says: “I met him at God’s Own Junkyard (a huge emporium of vintage neon signs in London), and we swapped pictures. The art comes before the neon: I use the neon to express a statement and enhance the artwork beneath.”
For his original queen-themed pieces, Mark enjoys making the works look like paintings by the Old Masters by framing them ornately; they are then “punkified” by glowing neon. The queen’s head is foam mounted to give a 3D effect, and the background of newspaper headlines is washed in deep blue dripping oils. The crowns can have up to 2800 jewels!
Mark sources his flags from an antique dealer on Portobello Road in London, selecting those with genuine provenance and historical value. These include memorabilia from World War Two, along with flags from the UK Royal Palaces at the turn of the century. He explains: “I upscale the flags by mounting them to a modern board and sewing holes where necessary. Then I preserve them with fabric conditioners and glazes before mounting neon statements upon them. The ornate frames give a timeless feel.”
© Copyright Washington Green Retail Limited trading as Castle Fine Art. First published 2012, last updated 2020. Washington Green Retail Limited acts as a credit broker and offers credit products from Secure Trust Bank PLC trading as V12 Retail Finance.
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