Category Archives: Journeys 2012

New Artist Commissions – Journeys 2012

In one year from today London Transport Museum will open a major exhibition for 2012 that will draw on our outstanding historic map collection, exploring the theme of Journeys. Along with historic maps we’ll be displaying some fantastic newly commissioned artworks by artists such as Stephen Walter, Simon Patterson, Susan Stockwell, Jeremy Wood and Agnes Poitevin-Navarre, with more to artists to be confirmed. 

Want to be involved? A number of these projects will be shaped using public content, meaning that you’ll be able to contribute directly to the artworks. Stephen Walter, for example, is currently asking for your comments for his Subterranean Map of London.

There are some seriously exciting projects underway and we’ll be posting regularly on their development. Stay tuned…

A New Subterranean Map of London – Get Involved!

Before Getting involved in the project you might like to read the full post: A New Subterranean Map of London

When thinking about London Underground, most people will relate to the tube system and their memories of events whilst on it, or to a crypt, basement or tunnel. This is all fine. London Transport Museum would like this blog to be a platform for expression in relation to subterranean places as well as history, archeology and comments. From your comments, I hope to find certain patterns or strands that reveal the histories of London’s people in relation to the geography of the place.

A few open questions to consider:

  • When you think about what is underground in London, what do you see?
  • What spaces fascinate you?
  • What discoveries have you made both in fact and fiction?
  • What rumors of ‘secret’ underground infrastructure have you heard about?
  • What does the ‘underworld’ mean to you?
  • Your idea of the ‘uncanny’?
  • What are the stereotypes and impressions that you hold of certain areas?
  • What is your concept of what is ‘underlying’?
  • London is a palimpsest of a multitude of histories, what do you want to see on a subterranean map of London?

A New Subterranean Map of London

London Transport Museum has commissioned me to create a new map for them. Our initial dialogue centered on ‘The Island’, a Map of London that I finished in 2008. Basically it was a hand-drawn map of London’s surface, where words and symbols mingled with geographical information to form among other things – a celebration of place. Traces of local history still resonating today were noted along with popular culture, contemporary life and autobiographical events.  It was essentially a people’s map, a snap shot of a vast and complex city frozen in time.

The information came from a vast range of sources – books, Internet, talking to people as well as my own experiences in the city of my birth and up bringing. I of course edited the details and epithets, but the filter that I used was a broad one in order for the piece to act as a mirror onto its viewer. The serious and the hard facts were to merge with the absurd and banal. It would defy conventions and act as a litmus paper to the reactions of its readers.

A portion of my internet-based research came from Wikipedia. I was drawn to the ability of the medium as a direct and democratic arena in which anyone could contribute his or her story. What is fact and what is fiction and the residue left behind from both is in itself the very fabric of our culture and our folk laws. And so, this blog lends itself to that.

I said afterwards, I would like to have noted the lost rivers of London in ‘The Island.’ The continuing flow of waters that now find themselves diverted and channeled through a system of pipes underground still ending in the Thames. These are the very routes of our city. When London Transport Museum came to me for a new idea, I thought of it straight away – An Underground map of London where I could finally include those lost rivers and develop my own tube map.

I am currently developing the ideas for this subterranean map of London and entries to this blog may contribute to its development. The map will include the underground transport network, the lost rivers of London and other notable sites of interest from pre-history to the contemporary. However, I am also looking to delve a little deeper into the questions of what the ‘underground’ means and how it might be interpreted.

Journeys 2012

Journeys 2012 is the working title for a major exhibition being organised for 2012. This exhibition will draw on the museum’s outstanding historic map collection to explore the theme of Journeys. The museum is commissioning a series of new artworks for the exhibition which will add further layers of meaning to the existing collection.

One of the artists we are working closely with on this project is Stephen Walter.

Stephen Walter – Journeys 2012 Commission

As part of Journeys 2012, the museum has commissioned Stephen Walter to produce a new map of London. By mapping what lies beneath the city, with reference to both fact and fiction, history and popular culture, Stephen’s subterranean map will present a new London “Underground”. The original artwork will feature in the museum exhibition in 2012, before becoming part of the permanent collection. Limited edition prints will be also published by TAG Fine Arts.

Stephen Walter – Artist’s Statement

Through landscape and mark making, I previously tended to a process that burgeoned sets of abstract symbols. I turned the process on its head in 2001 by taking an array of signs and symbols from the actual world as a starting point to build new images.

My work began to see its objects slowly, taken over by their symbolic representations and the influences of a commercialised world; the idea of landscape and the environment as a shared space could no longer be ignored. In a Post Pop time of mass, industry, culture, and modularisation, my own obsessive tendencies merged with a continuing study into the traditions of Romanticism.

My drawings evolved with a growing lexicon of public and sub-cultural signs and symbols, leading me to look at maps and their keys. I began to invent my own, creating fictitious lands as well as real places in my life. The vastness of information on these drawings was to enrich my growing fascination with the intricacies and the contradictions of our world.

After producing a map of the UK and Ireland I came to the decision that I would make one of London. With an ingrown passion for the city as a native Londoner, I began this undertaking in 2006; it was to span over two years.

London is one of the great living palimpsests of our time. Its layers of history and constant energy to re-invent itself fuel this vast grey magnet. I was spurred on by the great Map Makers of London’s past – John Roque, Greenwood and Phyllis Pearsall (the originator of the A-Z). Informed by my own insights and knowledge, I combined further research on the Internet and through writers such as Peter Ackroyd and Ian Sinclair.

The resulting map, a spoof of historical ones of old, would challenge the first impressions of its viewer, touching on the Capital’s vastness, its secrets and its undercurrents. With this process in mind, I began to edit the information, keeping what I felt were historically important, interesting, relevant and amusing. These fantastical additions and epithets are purposefully innocent and acidic, trivial and serious. The Map is as much about the personality of its viewer as it is about my own. In other words it acts as a mirror.

Britain is a collection of islands and this undoubtedly forms part of our identity. This provincialism at the centre of many industries, in particular the London-centric Art world, and its rise again to world city status, add to London’s identity as an icon, separated from the rest of the country. I wanted to perceive London as another one of these ‘islands,’ and so when mapping the coastline around its Borough edges I was happy to discover Carshalton Beaches coinciding with this border.

It is the facts and perceptions of this study placed within reality that gives this piece such meaning to me. Apart from its coastline, ‘The Island’ is geographically accurate and to scale, highlighting many of London’s main roads, railways, built up areas and its green spaces. It notes the city’s Victorian legacy, snippets of trivia, local knowledge, stereotypes, its place name histories and personal facts and opinions.

Discoveries such as the 1st Earl of Salisbury having honeymooned, in 1589, in what is now a dodgy part of Edmonton caused much amusement, whilst also being of incredible interest in the finding out of how places have changed. Some facts from Wikipedia are blatantly untrue. However, the inclusion of some serves as a reminder that reputations and hype can often precede facts and figures that are themselves selective in their very nature. They can often be more poignancy in ‘the everyday’ than official knowledge and statistics. For this reason, the map constantly bounces between elements of folk and conservative cultures.

Other epithets include: where Winston Churchill went to school and the fact that Screaming Lord Sutch and Byron were both Harrow boys; The Gymnasium where Arnold Schwarzenegger trained; the site where the speed of sound was first recorded; the place where Oliver Twist was taught to thieve; and where Hendrix died. It notes the sights of old Palaces; Newgate Prison from which the convicted were marched off to be hung at the Tyburn Tree (now Speakers Corner); and Pimlico Prison where prisoners were shipped off to Australia, just down the road from Whitehall previously known ‘Tothill’ and ‘the thorny Island’ by its former Druid occupiers. It gives local jargons, notes the Magna Carta Island at Runneymede and the main encampments of the peasants’ revolts.

These aspects have culminated into a study of ‘Our History,’ a celebration of place and an extreme form of drawing where the original requires the use of a magnifying glass in order to read it.

Stephen Walter – Maps and Landscapes

Hub, 2007-2010, © Stephen Walter

Hub (detail), 2007-2010, © Stephen Walter

Stephen Walter’s maps and landscapes set out to challenge our first impressions, exploring ideas about beauty and desire within the politics of space, and the micro- and macrocosms in which we live. Under the guise of traditional techniques, his work reveals a myriad of words and symbols. The fantastical additions, references to history, trivia, personal experiences and local knowledge merge older notions of Romanticism with a fascination in the intricacies and the contradictions of our modern world.