The use of text within to the visual arts can be traced back as far as the inscribed carvings found on cave walls created by the Indigenous population of Australia approximately 46000 years ago. However, over the past few years, the use of text in art, also known as the art of typography, has become a frequent means of communication for artists in the creation of their works. .
Text within art can be projected, scrawled, painted, computerised and carved to the point that a work may be created of nothing but language. The art of typography is the technique of arranging type in such a way that makes language visible. It treats fonts as individual entities to be enjoyed by the audience. .
Some artists deal with language as a character on its own as opposed to a surface to draw upon. These artists place texts in ways that are intended to stimulate the way an audience perceives a work, to evoke emotion or to create a statement. However, others, particularly graphic designers, tend to focus on the decorative powers of text. Regardless of the artist's intentions, the appearance of text within art can shift our appreciation of their sound and meaning. Artists that explore text in art include: Barbara Kruger, Yukinori Yanagi, Katarzyna Kozyra, Jenny Holzer, Wenda Gu, Shirin Neshat, Miriam Stannage, Colin McCahon and Jenny Watson. .
Artists such as Jenny Holzer, Wenda Gu and Shirin Neshat explore the cultural implications of language in art and the importance of language to identity through the inclusion of text that reflect a postmodern concern with the way we receive information in our contemporary society.
Jenny Holzer is an American conceptual artist who belongs to the feminist branch of artists that emerged during the 1980's. Originally an abstract painter and printmaker, Holzer became heavily interested in conceptual art and began creating works using text. The introduction of text within Holzer's work occurred gradually however, over time, they have entirely replaced images.