When you think of Brighton, it’s likely that a set of images come to mind. And it’s likely that somewhere in these images, there’s a flash of gaudy lighting. Whether it be the pier, with its seaside amusements, or the thriving alternative nightlife scene with its basement bars and music venues, Brighton is punctuated by neon, in all its multitudinous forms. In a seafront studio, Daisy Doig is a neon artist who is forging her own path in a world often inaccessible to newcomers.
Daisy initially started out as an apprentice in her father, Andy’s, studio. The space feels like an extension of Andy and Daisy’s work. Under an arch, facing square-on to the Brighton seafront, the space is adorned with works from the last three decades. Some hang from the ceiling, others are mounted on the walls. Andy’s appear as repeating patterns of colour and form, with much irreverence and humour . Daisy’s are contemporary and minimal. She has a series dedicated to different types of drinks glasses. It’s clear she has her own distinctive style, but working with Andy wasn’t always the plan.
“I just returned home after living in Australia and decided to try a day course at neon school. It was mainly curiosity at that point but after 24 hours I was completely transfixed and just knew it was something I wanted to pursue. Learning neon is a very gruelling process as you are met with a lot of setbacks and moments of despair. The passion and drive I felt to learn was what kept me going”.
Despite the popularity of neon in recent years, it is still a relatively niche art form. When asked why this might be, the artist disagrees that neon only exists on the fringes, “Neon has recently been acknowledged as culturally significant. You can find references to neon in film, music, art, novels, fashion… it’s everywhere. Neon has been so embedded in culture since the 1960s that sometimes we don’t even know we are referencing it.” This sense is even more heightened by her environment: “Brighton is one of those places where there is always something going on. I’m always seeing funny moments and visual treasures in the streets which I try to incorporate into my work”.
While neon has only been around for just over a century, it has come to define the aesthetics of our age. The writer Sarah Archer wrote in The Atlantic that “neon is the defining image of the 20th century”. Something which can simultaneously stand for affluence and for decline, for both glamour and sleaze. Despite the fact that the chemistry discovery that Sir William Ramsay made, which would allow noble gases to burn as light for 1000 hours, was made just over a century ago.
Photograph by Amber Tanc
Because of the location Daisy operates in, a lot of her time is taken up working on corporate gigs. But having the ability to explore and find her own style is what inspires her. She explains that she never studied art, but that hasn’t stopped her finding a distinctive voice in her work. “It’s so rewarding having an idea and being able to transfer it into a piece of neon art,” she explains. And while the process of creating neon art is both gruelling and precise, the artist finds solace in her morning routine.
“I’ll wake up early with my boyfriend so we can have a coffee in bed together, which always gets my mind ready for the day. Then I’ll walk over to the studio, the first hour is normally having a catch up with Andy, more coffee, and getting my work station set up with my hand torch, f ile, cork, blow hose, pencil and lighter . We then put some music on, recently it’s been a lot of Sleaford Mods latest album. I like to get started with glass bending as soon as possible. I’m one of those people who works best in the morning and as you have to be so focused on neon, I try to get the tricky bits done as early as possible.”
Photograph by Amber Tanc
Wardrobe choices are important for Daisy. Laid-back, practical, timeless. “I would say comfort is my main priority, I love a simple oversized look. It also needs to be hardwearing as I’m forever getting my clothes dirty and accidentally burning little holes in them”.