Of all the places I expected teaching yoga to take me it certainly wouldn’t have been into the weird and wonderful world of neon art, so after being approached by the immensely talented Richard William Wheater I immediately grasped the opportunity to delve into this diverse project with both hands. At first i was a little confused as to what Richard actually wanted from this morning which he decided to call “light yoga”, which for the record I think is a brilliant title. As we met over coffee we started to understand each other a bit better, my understanding of neon developed and Richard’s of yoga, together we began to brainstorm ways in which we could mesh these two wonders together.
Richard talked me through a series of different neon artists all of which were from the UK, one was himself, he told be bits about their history as artists and what inspires/inspired their work, I then took over in interpreting them into different yoga postures, it was great fun and a way to layer a more creative and artistic level to yoga.
The workshop its self was actually a full day with Richard developing peoples skills and understanding of neon art, our “light yoga” kicked things off as soon as the guests arrived at The Hepworth gallery in Wakefield (a truly amazing place). As I imagined there were a few nervous looks as I advised people to take their shoes AND socks off, as well as some people lumbering up in their jeans. After a short introduction and a brief acknowledgement that we were not going to be doing the splits, we began with some simple breathing techniques that seemed to calm the atmosphere – the breathing techniques were to represent neon artist Julia Bickerstaff, she seemed to hold a strong foundation within the neon community just like our breath does in yoga.
Next the guests were introduced to Martin Creed, an artist who mainly creates empowering and supportive text and phrases through neon the most famous which read “EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT”. We decided to interpret this into a posture by laying the guests on their backs and hugging their knees, giving them a sense of security and comfort.
We then went onto Ceryth Wyn Evans and David Batchelor, Ceryth’s work was heavily based around circles and the flow of energy within materials, so for this our guests did a forward fold holding their arms this helped them feel their own energy flowing around their bodies. David was an interesting artist as he took very normal used household goods like old TV’s and turned them into beautiful pieces of art. The way David presented his work reminded me of the game Tetris so for this we guided everyone into the structured yet beautiful posture Trikonasana or Triangle pose – the way you move your body into the pose and the shapes you create resembled David’s work.
Next we were introduced to Richard’s own work, he regularly uses the electric insulator shape to represent how energy flows through man. We decided we wanted the next posture to be a collaborative one, asking the guests to face towards one and other pressing their hands together and sitting into chair pose, this created the shape of an insulator as well as allowing their own energy to flow through each other.
Half way through and everyone was relaxing into the class and smiling away, we worked on another collaborative posture straight after from artists Sir William Ramsay and Morris Travers. Together in 1898 after experimenting with many different gases they illuminated neon by exciting it with electricity. We wanted to show the class that without one and other they wouldn’t have achieved this, our guests faced one and other held onto each others forearms and had to trust their partner to lean back – it worked beautifully (see top picture).
Tim Etchells was next up and with his work we interpreted a bit more of a challenging posture in the form of warrior 3 to aim to create a capital T for Tim.
Chris Timmermans, Richard’s old neon boss who unfortunately had a motorbike accident involving him losing his leg. Coming from generations of neon artists Chris’s roots are firmly grounded in the neon industry, so naturally we decided to do tree pose with a little bit of black comedy we admit. We paired our guests side by side and offering support for one and other they balanced into tree pose.
Neon artist Richard Box created neon art in the form of fluorescent tubes across a 3600 square metre farmers field, representing electricity pylons and how dangerous they can be. Swaying palm tree pose seemed to be the most obvious choice to try to create electricity flowing through the tubes or pylons.
Finally what better way to finish than with Fiona Banners work titled “full stop”. The “full stop” represents an ending but also signifies a beginning.
10 neon artists and yoga postures later the day was unfortunately over for me but carried on for the guests to learn more from Richard. An unexpected direction in which yoga took me that I would do again in a heart beat and once again yoga proves its ability to connect everyone.
Keep the energy flowing by staying connected
GEM Yoga xxx
Thanks to Richard William Wheater for creating light yoga and David Lindsay for the superb photographs.