Art is… Literal

Join us as we unravel the endless possibilities of text in art.

Art has always been a medium through which individuals can express their thoughts, emotions, and perspectives. While traditional forms of art often rely on visual imagery, there is a captivating niche within the art world where text takes centre stage.

In this blog, we delve into the realm of literal art, focusing on the works of renowned text-based artists such as Barbara Kruger, David Shrigley, Robert Indiana, Lawrence Weiner, and Juan Uribe. Through their bold and thought-provoking compositions, these artists challenge our perceptions of language, communication, and meaning, blurring the lines between art and the written word.

Barbara Kruger – Sprüth Magers
Unveiling cultural critiques through language, Barbara Kruger is a contemporary artist recognised for her iconic black-and-white images overlaid with provocative slogans. Her work combines imagery and text to deliver powerful messages that explore themes of consumerism, feminism, and social identity. Kruger's art is characterised by bold typefaces and witty phrases, forcing viewers to confront the underlying messages embedded within the visual compositions. By making language a central element in her art, Kruger challenges us to question the power dynamics present in contemporary society.
Embracing absurdity and humour in words David Shrigley's text-based art possesses a unique charm characterised by its simplicity, wit, and dark humour. His work often consists of handwritten messages or crudely drawn illustrations that evoke childlike simplicity. Shrigley employs irony and absurdity to highlight the idiosyncrasies of everyday life, often leaving viewers with a sense of amusement and introspection. By elevating the mundane and giving it a voice through words, Shrigley's art reminds us to find joy and humour in the ordinary.
Juan Uribe
Exploring cultural identity and memory Juan Uribe is a contemporary artist who uses text as a vehicle to explore themes of cultural identity, memory, and heritage. His work often combines poetry and storytelling with visual elements, creating layered narratives that transcend language barriers. Uribe's art is an embodiment of the power of words to evoke emotions and provoke introspection, bridging gaps between different cultures and personal experiences. Through his text-based compositions, Uribe invites viewers to reflect on their own stories and engage with the collective human experience.
Robert Indiana
Symbolic expressions in typography Robert Indiana, best known for his iconic "LOVE" sculptures, pioneered the use of typography as an artistic medium. His work explores the expressive potential of simple forms and symbols, utilising bold, geometric letters to convey profound messages. By distilling complex emotions into concise and recognisable words, Indiana's art fosters a sense of universality and connection. Through his choice of font and composition, he creates a visual impact that echoes the power of language itself.


Lawrence Weiner

Conceptual art as language Lawrence Weiner is a key figure in conceptual art, where language plays a central role. His artworks consist of text-based instructions that challenge the traditional notions of art as a physical object. Weiner's art invites viewers to engage actively with language, emphasising the conceptual and communicative aspects of the artistic process. By blurring the boundaries between art and language, Weiner encourages us to question the meaning of art itself and the role we play as interpreters.


By harnessing the expressive potential of text, these artists create thought-provoking compositions that explore social commentary, humour, universal emotions, and cultural identity. Through their art, they inspire us to examine the intricacies of language and its impact on our understanding of the world, inviting us to engage with art in a more literal and direct manner.

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