Robert Montgomery - Portrait of the artist with his fire poem (detail), photo credits

Robert Montgomery

Installation, Conceptual Art

September 11, 2014

Words are not thoughts, they are just a small representation of them, a symbol of something bigger and more complex that's hidden underneath the layers of meaning. In the case of Robert Montgomery that difference is negligible. He creates delicate visual poetry sending a powerful message to the viewers - stop and think about it. This artist does a strong advertising game, sending in-your-face messages of criticism and hope, almost rudely mocking the consumer-oriented society we live in. Marketing is the game of the rich, and what is beeing advertised is what is being desired. In the case of Montgomery's work, we should desire more love, more hope, more happiness, and worry less about money or the disposable goods we can buy with it. He uses words as a currency and what he sells is a profound inspiration. His poetry inspires many and some people are even getting his poems tattooed. That kind of intimate and sentimental admiration he gets from his fans somehow matches the character of his art. Robert got his MFA and BA from Edinburgh College of Art and later became Artists in Residence at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston Texas. Early in his career he started making sculptures and gave them very extensive titles. Words were always a powerful tool, and he made a switch from sculpture to visual poetry. There are elements of literature, philosophy and art in his pieces. With the intention to be though provoking and mind-awakening, he sends strong messages on billboards, walls, ads, parks, benches, and even moving trucks.

Robert uses words as a currency and what he sells is a profound inspiration

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Robert Montgomery - Echoes of Voices Berlin

Paying for Coffee with a Poem

There is a huge fan base following his art and this artist achieved international success. Best known for poems/installations titled Echoes of voices in high towers and Every palace is a temporary palace, Montgomery has become an artist to admire. One of his first and famous work is named Words in the city at night which dates back to 2005 when he started his poetic punk revolution. Besides posters and billboards, he also creates recycled light pieces, woodcuts, and watercolors. Art critiques describe him as a post-Situationist man because he follows the tradition of 20th-century avant-garde artists, in a sense there is often something political in his work. Without being a cultural stereotype, or a typical mellow-hearted poem whisperer that overproduces sweet inspirational mantras, he uses his poems to share his opinion on war, global warming, love, and how pessimistic we've become as we became wealthier and lonelier. Fighting against patronizing ad makers, Montgomery gets intensively emotional in his installations. What we seek for in capitalistic culture is an instant reward mechanism, where we satisfy our needs, but discharge enormous amounts of energy for them, and then turn ourselves into perfect targets for advertising. What Robert does is actually a remedy for those type od adverts. With melancholic tone and bold black letters, Robert attacks the audience, but he feels obliged to say something optimistic and positive, just to get real and stay true. This rebellious avant-garde artist even got arrested but managed to chat with police about works of William Blake.

Fighting against patronizing ad makers, Montgomery gets intensively emotional in his installations

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Remedy for Advertisments

It seems that everywhere he goes, poetry follows. In 2016, he was an ambassador for World Poetry Day, and he started a campaign of paying for coffee with a poem. He embraces the whole concept of new media art and asserts the importance of self-publishing. Also, he is the part of new Instagram era writers, who very carefully match what is written with how it looks like, so the visual representation plays a great role in fan base making before the author gets published and popular. Even though his messages are on clothes, tattoos, bags, shoes, phone cases and wallpapers, the fact his art is being institutionalized only makes him prouder of what he achieved. Robert is a new generation prophet and what he preaches we should follow. His very sophisticated poetry skills combined with his punk attitude make him a bringer of jollity, bringer of something sacred and pure into the mundane lives we often forget we're living. It is strange how something so political proceeds to be so emotional. Both are developing human life, and we feel their impact every single day. Energizing magnetism is something that made Robert's fan base so big. We can state without any doubt that Tumblr generation would never read poetry so religiously like they do when they see it on the billboard or set on fire. What needs to be changed has to be done in practice, without any further theoretical overthinking. By doing, a man is learning, fulfilling his true desires, and fighting against the system that doesn't suit him. Instead of a just single shoulder shrug, one has to think about how to change something for the better.

Robert carefully matches meaning with visualization

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Robert Montgomery - All Palaces Docks Art Fair Lyon

Though Provoking and Mind Awakening

When Robert writes about war (that was his first billboard piece in 2004), he brings war into the eye range, and that is how the situation in Iraq is not something that is happening miles away, it is in front of us. There is certain tendency to think there is nothing we can do about what is not in our power to change. That is partly true, we cannot control wars, but we can decide to change locally and to participate more in our civic duties. When it comes to love, it's easy. We all think we are entitled to live happily ever after, and that is why Robert's poetry is in the diaries of many teenagers but also grown up people who still believe in an existence of magic between chores and work. It is ironic how out better-than-everything attitude drew us so far away from spirituality and God, and how we need visual poetry to be pulled back in, into the realm of magic and beliefs. Being ego driven, the easiest way to manipulate a man or a woman is to tell him/her that something is missing from their lives. That is usually an item that can be bought, massively produced, and put on the discount shelf for us. What is not advertised a lot is the moral obligation of participating in state regulation, in recycling, and trying to have healthy habits and spread ecological awareness. For Robert, the artist has a responsibility to be engaged into political and sociological aspects of life. Every time there is a place to take a break, it should not be for a Kit-Kat, it should be for something visually appealing, sensory pleasing, but either heart-melting or heart-shocking. Chocolate causes heartburn, poetry causes love.

Robert Montgomery lives and works in London.

All images © Robert Montgomery website

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