Zoe Grace’s life has had more than the usual highs and lows. As a model in the 90s she enjoyed an enviable life, hanging out with music stars and friends like Sadie Frost and Pearl Lowe on London’s party scene.
But after the birth of her son Marley, the single mother found herself homeless fighting mental health issues such as depression & addiction. Often relying on the kindness of friends like Frost, who put her up and helped her find her feet, the West Hampstead artist has acquired a hard-won life-affirming philosophy that’s literally etched on her work.
The story behind how Zoe Grace started making her modified street signs and neon artworks is a heart-warming one; when her son first started going to school on his own, to prevent him getting lost she left signs for him at the relevant bus stops and along the roads to show him which direction to go. Now, for more than a decade, Zoe Grace has been delighting passers-byers with her modified street signs and lighting up lives with neon artworks.
Day-to-day the signs we come across can appear limiting with pessimistic rules or guidance. Defining herself as an opportunistic artist, Grace finds street signs and modifies them to contain a statement, which not only guides, but furthermore brightens up one’s day. She takes much joy from shining positive affirmations into people’s lives and it shows via her text-based pieces that are uplifting and supporting in their messages. Contrary to her light works, her modified street signs are not exhibited – they are left for the public to see and feel for as long as they remain. Through her work, the artist embodies the sunshine and explores the positive impact that the encouraging, and loving words have on people.
Stepping in line with artists like the late British neon artist Chris Bracey, Zoe Grace also creates light boxes and neon artwork. The text-based pieces are positive and supporting in their messages, taking the shape of things that are usually less comfortable, like ophthalmologist test boxes and traffic warning signs, and replacing them with more uplifting and hopeful messages.
Zoe Grace worked with Rhodes Contemporary Art to produce a number of heart-warming and uplifting pieces such as Happiness Ahead, which is made from a warm yellow glowing light, visually akin to a child’s night-light, which is especially poignant for the dark times we are going through. The artwork becomes a sign through the instructive message ‘Happiness Ahead’ which is encased within a red heart. Grace has cleverly replaced the standard warning road signs ‘tunnel ahead’ or ‘road closed ahead’, intended to warn us of imminent danger. The High-way code notes that circle signs give drivers clear instructions. In the times of national lockdowns when clear answers from either the Government or health advisors are not always available, Grace instructed her viewers with a soothing and reassuring message.
If you like Zoe Grace’s work you might also be interested in the colourful type-led compositions of Ces McCully, whose messages within the canvases often express confession and secret thoughts, giving expression to our ‘shadow-selves’, challenging the false face of our online personas.