Neon bending is about as hard as it looks. Meet the Montreal artist mastering it

For street artist Five Eight, neon bending is a new part of a multifaceted art practice. But he's using the craft to take his graffiti and make it 3D.

Street artist Five Eight is using neon bending to take his graffiti and make it 3D

(Five Eight)

Montreal artist Five Eight is no stranger to working with unforgiving materials — when you're a mural painter, you have to learn how to manipulate a spray can, paint on brick or work around corners. Recently though, Five Eight's taken on a whole new medium: neon-glass tube bending.

This is a tricky process. Neon was discovered in 1898 and was being used in tubes for lighting and advertising by about 1910. The skills you need to manipulate the technology haven't vastly changed since then, though the popularity of neon signage exploded in the 20th century. It became maybe a bit kitschy for a while there, but more recently (since about the 1980), it's once again become a sought-after medium for businesses, interior design and as an art form of its own.

Watch the video:

Neon bender Five Eight

3 years ago
Duration 3:32
Montreal artist Five Eight shows you how he manipulates neon into shimmering works of art. Filmmaker: Alex Cadilla

In this video made by filmmaker Alex Cadilla (of Off Kilter fame), Five Eight muses on how the material has been a challenge for him — both in the limitations neon bending imposes on how you make your art and in its potential to allow the artist to create huge multimedia sculptures.

Follow Five Eight here.

(Five Eight)
(CBC Arts)
(Five Eight)

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Lise Hosein is a producer at CBC Arts. Before that, she was an arts reporter at JazzFM 91, an interview producer at George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight and a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. When she's not at her CBC Arts desk she's sometimes an art history instructor and is always quite terrified of bees.