Murals are indicators of both place and time. During the 1970s and 80s, London became an important centre for mural production. Murals from this period represent the political climate, social context and communities who collaboratively made them. These qualities define the murals that populate Brixton today. However, as London is further developed, many murals are being damaged or destroyed. The surviving murals reveal the rapid change London has undergone in the past few decades, but they have not received the same recognition, protection and conservation as other public artworks or heritage sites in the city. This Mural Map shares the stories behind Brixton’s murals and makes these overlooked public artworks more visible.
From 2018-20 Art on the Underground has commissioned contemporary artists to create new artworks in response to the Brixton murals. These works explore commemoration, collective memory and the wider history of mural making, and will be on display at the Brixton Underground station entrance.
As part of this programme Art on the Underground has worked with artist Meera Chauda and six local primary schools to create artworks inspired by the Brixton murals. Each school has designed their own artwork, using drawing and collage, in response to the themes in the original murals. The schools visited specific murals which influenced them to think about what they wanted to celebrate and commemorate about their local area. The designs on display show the pupils’ responses, they are created from tessellated shapes, reminiscent of the London Underground tiles, which reflect each school’s symbol and colours.
Art on the Underground present a new commission by Njideka Akunyili Crosby for Brixton station, which will be on view for six months from 20 September. Nigerian-born Akunyili Crosby has been invited to take on the first commission in a new programme at Brixton station. The programme takes the numerous murals that were created in Brixton during the 1980s as an initial point of departure and invites selected artists to respond to their diverse narratives, the rapid development of the area and the wider social and political history of mural making.
Akunyili Crosby’s work explores her hybrid cultural identity, combining strong attachments to the country of her birth and her current home in Los Angeles. This theme will continue in her new Brixton commission, this time addressing a specifically black British perspective. Akunyili Crosby has created a work that investigates shared cultural memory and connects the past and present through an exploration of place. Remain, Thriving is a new work made specifically for the entrance of Brixton Underground station. The work depicts an imagined domestic scene, a theme predominant in much of the artist’s work, of an informal gathering of grandchildren and great grandchildren of the Windrush generation in a fictional home in Brixton. The space contains a number of vestiges of an earlier generation, such as a doily or record player, which the figures might have inherited from their parents or grandparents.
In order to anchor her new work in Brixton, and a British diasporic experience, Akunyili Crosby spent time in the area speaking to longstanding members of the local community as well as public historian Kelly Foster, the Black Cultural Archives, and the Lambeth Archives. The artist collated contemporary and archival images of Brixton to use in her final artwork, and the transferred images in the background of Remain, Thriving echo the heavily patterned wallpaper of a previous era. Through the use of photo-collage, Akunyili Crosby’s layered images of social gatherings are also complex reflections on history, community and politics, much like the original Brixton murals. The artist creates densely layered figurative compositions that, precise in style, conjure the complexity of contemporary experience.
Art on the Underground will present a major public commission by British artist Linder at Southwark station, launching on 8 November 2018, and on view until October 2019.
The work, the first large-scale public commission by Linder in London, consists of an 85 metre long street-level billboard at Southwark station and a cover commission for the 29th edition of the pocket Tube map.
Linder has spent four months as artist-in-residence, carefully researching and mapping a vertical history of Southwark. The artist’s starting point begins in the belly of the architecture at Southwark station. Designed by Richard McCormack and opened in 1999, the station was inspired by the 18th Century notion of the English landscape garden and sought to create a place of peace and tranquility, a refuge from urban life. Further research draws on local collections including Southwark Council’s Cuming Museum Collection, the London Transport Museum Collection, and Transport for London’s lost property offices as source material for an ambitious photomontage that will wrap the entire station façade at Southwark station.
For the 28th edition of the pocket Tube map, Art on the Underground have commissioned Romanian artist Geta Brătescu to create a new artwork – marking the nonagenarian artist’s first public commission in the UK.
For Brătescu’s commission, she has created a collage which is part of her ongoing cycle Game of Forms (2009 – present). This work comprises vivid pink cut-outs with graphic, hand-drawn, black markings. Brătescu describes this collaging technique as ‘drawings with scissors’. The use of scissors give the vibrant pink triangles sharp contours while the imperfection of the heavy black lines, which are almost reminiscent of Japanese calligraphy, anchor the artwork in its materiality.
The Night Tube map cover series, first launched in 2016, works with early career artists, and coincides with Art on the Underground’s long standing series of Pocket Tube map covers, established in 2004.
You in my bedroom presents a portrait in which Marie Jacotey turns the male gaze on its head, staging a voyeuristic image of a young man looking through his bedroom window at night. In the positioning of the subject with his back to the viewer, the portrait aims to evoke questions about the scene the observer is presented with. When making the work, Jacotey used her own experience of quiet, late night journeys by train and how these travels give space to ruminate and reflect. There is often a juxtaposition between loud, crowded groups heading towards or returning from late night social gatherings and tired, solitary travellers. For the cover of the map, Jacotey has drawn on this solitude using coloured pastel to create an intimate portrait of the night.
Art on the Underground present a major new commission by British artist Heather Phillipson for the disused platform at Gloucester Road Underground station. my name is lettie eggsyrub, Phillipson’s first public commission in the U.K, will fill the 80m platform at the station and be on view for one year.
London-based Phillipson works in video, sculpture, online media, music, drawing, poetry and what she calls walk-in collages. Relationships between human and non-human animals are a recurring theme in her work and for this commission she focusses on the egg as an object of reproduction, subject to human interference. In her space-filling sculptural and video installation for Gloucester Road’s disused platform, Phillipson will use video game-style layout techniques to magnify eggs and avian body-parts to monstrous proportions.
Art on the Underground will commission a year-long programme of women artists in 2018, which marks 100 years since the Representation of the People Act, enabling all men and some women over the age of 30 to vote for the first time.
To mark this, Art on the Underground, Transport for London’s public art programme, has commissioned work by an international selection of women artists with highlights including:
- A major project with British artist Heather Phillipson filling the 80 metre long disused platform at Gloucester Road station
- A major new billboard commission by British artist Linder at Southwark station
- Tube map covers by Romanian artist Geta Brătescu, French artist Marie Jacotey and British artist Jade Montserrat
- The first commission in a new programme at Brixton station taking the Brixton murals as an initial point of departure, by Nigerian-born artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby
- A new commission by Nina Wakeford to coincide with the new Northern Line Extension
Throughout history, women artists have questioned feminist identities, gender roles and sexual politics to push for social change. The programme will give space to the diverse publics that make up our society, addressing structural gender imbalance which is prevalent in the arts and in particular the public arts.
The programme will have mass presence across London; at street level on billboards at Brixton and Southwark, on the cover of over 25 million Tube maps, and in a hugely ambitious sculptural intervention on an 80 metre long platform at Gloucester Road Station. There are almost six million journeys taken on London Underground each day, and Art on the Underground’s 2018 programme will put women at the forefront of public space.
Art on the Underground have worked with Studio Voltaire and the Estate of David McDiarmid to present a selection of the artist’s Rainbow Aphorisms series at Brixton Underground station.
David McDiarmid (1952–1995) was an Australian artist, designer and activist, recognised for his prominent and sustained artistic engagement in issues relating to queer identity and history. Rainbow Aphorisms are a series of printed multiples, produced from 1993 until the artist’s death in 1995 of AIDS–related illnesses. McDiarmid produced these works in response to his own, and his community’s, experience of the AIDS crisis, and the multiple forms of devastations it manifests –political, emotional, intellectual and medical.
“I wanted to express myself and I wanted to respond to what was going on and I wanted to reach a gay male audience. I wanted to express very complex emotions and I didn’t know how to do it … I was in a bit of a dilemma. I thought, well, how can I get across these complex messages. I didn’t think it was simply a matter of saying gay is good.” – David McDiarmid, 1992.
The construction of the Victoria line began in the early 1960s, with a uniform clean design for each station. Individual character is brought into stations by a unique tile design sitting behind benches on the platforms. At Pimlico station, it was decided that a contemporary artist would be appropriate to link the station to the Tate Gallery (now Tate Britain), just a few minutes walk away. Peter Sedgley was chosen. In the 1960s, Sedgley was developing his ‘op-art’ style of work, optically confusing artworks that challenge your perceptions. He based his design at Pimlico on his painting ‘Go’ of 1968. Many of Sedgley’s works can be found in Tate’s collection. Other bench recess designs along the Victoria line feature work by designers and graphic artists Abram Games, Edward Bawden, Hans Unger, Alan Fletcher, Tom Eckersley, George Smith and Julia Black.