Every Cloud Has a Neon Lining

Made In The Light – Happy Cloud, 2011

It’s a simple message, welcoming visitors to the Maitland Regional Art Gallery (MRAG) – don’t worry, be happy. A smiling cloud sheds happy tears, brightening the day of anyone who sees it on the outside of MRAG, where it was installed in 2019. Its message is most effective at night, when its neon light illuminates the darkness.

Nell (1975-), the artist known only by her first name, created this artwork for MRAG to share her childlike wonder and joy in life. Nell grew up in the regional town of Maitland, far from the centres of artistic culture in the cities. A high school exchange to Japan introduced her to cultural difference:

‘Going from a rural centre in New South Wales to walking through Tokyo train station and seeing all these people who had such different lives, it just explodes your own little world.’

It was not only the neon extravaganza of Tokyo that made an impact on Nell. The Japanese philosophy of Zen Buddhism would later come to infuse her life and work, manifested through everyday meditations on the experience of impermanence. Made in the light – happy cloud conveys a clear reminder to find joy in the moment and to accept the cycle of night and day, sunshine and rain, light and dark that is part of the constant change of life.