Jim Speers

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1970

Didn’t Get to Sleep Last Night

  • 2004
  • Acrylic, vinyl and fluorescent light source
  • Commissioned by the Christchurch Art Gallery with the assistance of the Friends of the Gallery, 2004
  • 2004/26.a-h

Jim Speers’s glowing light-boxes exist in a hinterland between the domain of advertising and the world of abstract art. Their form borrows from back-lit business signage and display advertising in shopping malls and airports; their aesthetic is related to mid-century American colour field painting. Speers observes that they are “neither ordinary objects passing themselves off as art, nor works of art passing themselves off as everyday things”.

“In a commercial setting,” he comments, “you don't need to read the sign to get it. It works in your peripheral vision. You see its colour. There are so many stories that come from a shade of blue or the depth of a red.” Speers’s Didn’t get to sleep last night illuminates the room with soft, muted colour, blurred at the edges, like the lights of a city seen through a rainy windshield. “I want to rekindle those warm feelings you get as night is falling and you’re walking towards the fish and chip shop and you see the neon light and think ‘Oh, that's a nice sign.’”

(December 2015)

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • Illuminating the picturesque Oriel Window of the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, Didn’t Get to Sleep Last Night combines mouth-wateringly beautiful colours with clean geometric forms. Created by Canterbury-trained artist Jim Speers, this bold and playful light box commission was made possible through the efforts of the Friends of the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, who raised funds towards a major acquisition for the Permanent Collection. The Gallery combined this generous gift with the opportunity to acquire a site-specific work for the Oriel Window that would retain the integrity of the space whilst also giving the Gallery a dramatic ‘after-dark’ presence. Speers’s work comprises a series of acrylic boxes covered with coloured vinyl, which are then illuminated with fluorescent light, offering an intense visual experience inside the Gallery during the day and transforming into a radiant spectacle for those passing in the street below at night.

    Born in 1970, Speers attended the University of Canterbury, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1992. He produced sculptural works for local and national exhibitions in a variety of media and in 1998 was invited to participate in the prestigious Sydney Biennale. He produced a radiant corridor filled with light boxes inspired by an everyday sights - fashion motifs, advertising hoardings and illuminated restaurant signs. Speers received the Olivia Spencer Bower Award in 1998 and was the Frances Hodgkins Fellow at the University of Otago in 2000. (Label created for original installation, 2004)