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Art on the Underground Staff Writer in Residence at St James's Park

‘Ode to the Mother’ is the second release from the Art on the Underground Writer in Residence Anthony Okolie. Inspired by ‘Rebirth of a Nation’ an artwork currently on display at Brixton Underground station until winter 2024 by artist Jem Perucchini.

‘Ode to the Mother’ will be installed on the platform of St James’s Park Underground Station as an artwork poster, launching February 22nd 2024 and on view for one year.

Anthony explained that the ‘the tale of the Ivory Bangle Lady conjured the notion of the strong women and mothers often taken for granted and seldom acknowledged as much as they could be.’

Anthony is a London-based creative writer and filmmaker and has worked at TfL for 6 years. Anthony’s artistic style takes inspiration from many sources, including history, psychology and the wonder he finds in the so-called ‘mundane’ aspects of everyday life. Anthony takes pride in portraying as much authenticity and realism in his art, highlighting the different perspectives of people going through similar if not the same routines and emotions.

The Art on the Underground Writer in Residence is a creative opportunity for a TfL staff member to develop their writing by working with TfL’s contemporary art programme Art on the Underground over a period of six months.

The Writer in Residence programme aims to highlight and amplify the creative voices within TfL, creating engaging responses to Art on the Underground’s ongoing programme.

 

ODE TO THE MOTHER

Saviour Her Equality/Her Equality Ruler,

All hail the almighty creator,

The homemaker,

Hence why, ‘Mother Nature’,

The law of attraction creates infinite life,

Divine feminine, named as the wife,

Unlimited wisdom as a matter of fact,

She can stroke my ego all the way back,

Her sweet voice sings away the blues,

Size 5 but that isn’t why you couldn’t walk in her shoes,

On long wintry mornings, her will never fails,

Through the darkest summers, she somehow prevails,

The cool breeze tempts the leaves,

Tall black trees, rooted in glory,

Bloody cycles of pain she endures to alibi his story,

A happy bereavement deep within.

She raises men,

Soft and cuddly, foremost point of reference,

Incomparable, she can’t be venerated by a single sentence,

Not to mention, walking in the snow,

Looking at the stars to know, we’re connected via soul,

For unforgettable memories, I’m Nat King Cole,

You give me the sense to have it all.

 

Anthony Okolie – Art on the Underground Staff Writer in Residence

A Little Slice of Paradise

Art on the Underground presents a new artwork for the 39th pocket Tube map cover by leading British artist Joy Gregory.

Titled A Little Slice of Paradise and inspired by Transport for London’s 100-year history of staff cultivated station gardens, Joy Gregory has created a rich photographic collage for the cover of the December pocket Tube map.

Renowned for her influence on British feminist photography and social justice movements, Gregory uses photographic media to re-illuminate forgotten cultural, historical and political narratives. As a British artist of Jamaican heritage Gregory’s practice often explores on the relationship between colonialism and identity and plant knowledge.

Since 1910, Transport for London has run an annual competition called ‘In Bloom’, which recognises staff for their efforts cultivating gardens in unlikely station environments.

Inspired by TfL’s gardens, Gregory wanted to create a Tube map cover for the people who will experience the artwork most frequently – station staff.  A Little Slice of Paradise pays tribute to staff and their gardens.

The title was inspired by a conversation Gregory had with gardener and Customer Service Manager, Tony Samuel, who described the garden he and his colleagues had created at Morden station as ‘a little slice of paradise’.

The artwork features a cyanotype imprint of chickweed grown in station gardens digitally collaged with photographs of flowers including camellias, dahlias, daisies, and nastursiums in station gardens. Gregory often uses camera-less photographic techniques such as cyanotypes, which captures the imprint of an object laid on top of light sensitive photographic paper in blue hues. The cyanotype was notably used by some of the earliest known women photographers to document botanical objects at a time when women were discouraged from engaging with the sciences. In her practice, Gregory draws on this feminist history using the cyanotype to re-illuminate and reframe overlooked narratives about identity, race, gender and social history which underscore contemporary society.

Evocative of the rich palette of Dutch Old Master flower paintings and the histories of photography, Gregory’s artwork offers customers a reminder of the station gardens to carry with them as they travel through the city.

Art on the Underground will unveil a new large-scale work by Joy Gregory at Heathrow terminal 4 station in June 2024, an extension of her Tube map artwork.

Joy Gregory, Artist said: “The most beautiful and rewarding part of working on this commission was seeing the positive impact these gardens had on the lives of people using the transportation system, as well as the pleasure it conveyed to the creators of these enchanting spaces and their colleagues.”

Justine Simons OBE, Deputy Mayor for Culture and Creative Industries, said: “Our Tube stations are not just transport hubs, they are icons of design and each one has something that makes it special. Cultivated gardens on London’s transport network are part of that rich tapestry and I want to thank artist Joy Gregory for merging past and present floral designs in the new pocket Tube map cover.

“It is a wonderful daily reminder for all of us who travel on the Tube network of the effort and dedication TfL staff have put into maintaining these magnificent gardens. Thank you for making our commute more enjoyable, helping us build a greener and better London for all.”

Eleanor Pinfield, TfL’s Head of Art on the Underground, said: “Gregory has turned a spotlight on a fascinating part of TfL’s history and a vibrant part of its contemporary life. Bringing the botanical to the front of the pocket Tube map is a fitting tribute to TfL staff who nurture plants year-round. This new artwork is a poignant reminder of the care that staff bring to the spaces we use every day as we travel.”

2024 Programme Announcement

Art on the Underground’s programme for 2024 comprises major new works from six contemporary artists. Since the early Twentieth century, artists, designers and architects have been at the forefront of London Underground’s presence in the city. Working with six contemporary artists across the year, Art on the Underground’s commissions consider this history and the collective experience of travel: through the stations themselves and the communities around them. The 2024 programme continues Art on the Underground’s commitment to creating critical frameworks for meaningful and expansive conversations and outcomes with artists, publics and public space.

The 2024 programme features new commissions and collaborative audio works that intervene at St James’s Park at 55 Broadway, London Underground’s historic headquarters, interrogate the organisation’s history of moquette fabric design, as well as new commissions at Brixton and at Heathrow. In its breadth and presence across London, the 2024 programme reflects on the history of London Underground whilst giving voice to the pluralism and movement of the city today.

Art on the Underground’s 2024 programme features major commissions situated across London including:

  • British artist Joy Gregory will expand on her photographic artwork for the 39th pocket Tube map cover with a series of artworks created in dialogue with the local community for Heathrow Terminal 4 station in July.
  • London and Beirut-based artist Joe Namy will produce a new sound work with the Mayor of London’s Culture and Community Spaces at Risk programme, bringing a new audio work to the London Underground network in July.
  • British artist Rita Keegan will develop a new commission exploring the history of moquette design for the pocket Tube map in August.
  • British artist duo Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings will create a major permanent mosaic work at historic St James’s Park station in October.
  • Leading British artist Claudette Johnson will create a new mural artwork at Brixton station in November.

Art on the Underground Staff Writer in Residence 2023

Art on the Underground Staff Writer in Residence 2023.

‘DESCEND and DISSENT’ is the first release from the Art on the Underground Writer in Residence Anthony Okolie. Inspired by Declaration of Independence by Barby Asante which launched in September 2023 with a performance at Stratford station.

The Art on the Underground Writer in Residence is a programme for a TfL staff member to develop their writing by working with Art on the Underground.

The Writer in Residence programme will highlight and amplify the creative voices within TfL, creating engaging responses to Art on the Underground artists and artworks throughout 2023.

 

Anthony said: As a captivated spectator of Barby Asante’s Declaration of Independence performance, I was quite simply overwhelmed with inspiration.

The strong message invoked a powerful image of my ascendants sharing their collective anguish on the streets I proudly call home.

The words and atmosphere conjured by the performance resonated with me, and I also detected a distinct tone of triumph that stirred my creativity. 

As times have changed, the voices of the oppressed has grown louder. Wisdom and understanding have broken down some of the social barriers that stand between equality and diversity.

My poem is a reflection and representation of the hope for a better world that never died.

 

DESCEND and DISSENT

Sitting under the sun’s ray, a hopeful day,

While softly, my doubts are cast away;

One-by-one they fall, surely but slow,

Tears don’t flow like a weeping willow;

Who will take heed of my silent cry?

Who else if not me, myself or I?

Before it was written it was perceived as a vision,

An elaborate concept of unified division,

They don’t want to listen so they can never see,

Live in a prison or choose to be free,

We spend our lives blind to inevitability,

Accepting inequalities when they say it’s a democracy,

They bar the horizon they can approach at a meander;

Despite what you read, it’s all propaganda,

When will you breathe? Just seek to find the answer,

The phoenix can rise without a pyromancer,

Oh, my faith can still transcend,

And so, I cannot lose before I ascend,

The time is still now, where brave souls make amends,

Collectively bargained between enemies and friends.

 

 

Rebirth of a Nation

Art on the Underground is pleased to present a new artwork by Jem Perucchini at Brixton Underground station from November 2023, marking the Italian artist’s first major commission.

Titled Rebirth of a Nation, the large-scale public artwork will be on view for a year and is the latest in a series of commissions for the station, following on from the work of artists including Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Joy Labinjo. Initiated in 2018, the programme invites artists to respond to the diverse narratives of the area, in recognition of the local murals painted in Brixton in the 1980s.

Born in Ethiopia but based in Italy since childhood, Perucchini is powerfully influenced by Italian art history. Conjuring the Early Renaissance with his distinctive, richly detailed painting style, his new work for Brixton station captures ethereal figures with luminous light. The composition is an allegorical vision in which the past, embodied by a female figure, and the future, her mirror image, meet. Flanked by two men holding spears, the women are distinguished by their sumptuously decorated clothes. One clasps a purple orb; historically a symbol of sovereign power in painting iconography. The elaborately detailed fabrics are evocative of African wax cloth, a material interwoven with the skill, artistry and identities of the diverse African diaspora. Bathed in the rays of a rising orange sun, the four figures inhabit an otherworldly environment of irregular compositional perspective, imbued with warm hues and a meditational quality that is evocative of a Renaissance altarpiece.

For this new work Perucchini maintains a strong connection to his practice, focussing on the active role of Western art history in the construction of archetypes. Certain representative figures dominate the art historical canon, and traditionally hold distinct positions in the social and symbolic hierarchy. Mining for overlooked narratives, Perucchini’s compositions are both familiar and enigmatic, and reimagine how the fantasies of the past can impact on the realities of the present.

This work’s inspiration is drawn from the Ivory Bangle Lady, the name given to the occupant of an ancient grave dated to around the 4th century. The Ivory Bangle Lady was of North African origin; her grave was found in York. The stone grave contained rare, imported objects and valuable jewellery, one of which was an elephant ivory bangle. These objects indicate that she was amongst the richest inhabitants of the region and enjoyed a high social status. Other archaeological finds also support the theory that African people had a place in the upper echelons of Roman society, suggesting that early Britain may have been more ethnically diverse than mainstream history suggests. Perucchini’s reference to this rich cultural past underscores how history can be seen and interpreted from multiple viewpoints and charges the work with questions about the hierarchy of narratives, the construction of national identity and how some histories are privileged, whilst others are erased.

Drawing from Brixton, one of London’s most distinctive areas, Perucchini’s work responds to an environment shaped by its diverse residents and their histories. As a nucleus for Black British history, the area has been shaped by recent social and political movements. In post-war London many West Indian immigrants settled in Brixton – almost a third who travelled on the Empire Windrush made it their home – and it quickly became a centre for the Black community. Perucchini’s work challenges the notion that Black British history stretches no further back than the 20th Century, celebrating the long lineage of Black Britons who came before and pointing towards an equally glorious future, set within a divine and timeless world.

Two new Labyrinth artworks by Mark Wallinger

To mark the 10-year anniversary of Mark Wallinger’s city-wide artwork, the artist has created two new Labyrinth artworks for Nine Elms and Battersea Power Station on the Northern line.

In 2013, Mark Wallinger’s Labyrinth was launched – 270 unique works, one for each of the 270 stations on the London Underground network. Two new stations joined the London Underground network in September 2021 with the opening of the extension of the Northern line at Nine Elms and Battersea Power Station. To mark the 10-year anniversary of Labyrinth, Wallinger has created two new unique Labyrinth artworks for these stations.

Inspired by the language of the symbols of London Underground, Wallinger chose the ancient symbol of the Labyrinth, with its single path, as the theme of the expansive work. Each London Underground station has its own unique Labyrinth design, emblazoned in black and white on a single 60cm² enamel panel, representing the journey through the network taken by millions of individuals each year. The works are installed in prominent positions so that they are visible to these passengers, and alongside the unique Labyrinth design, each has a number marked out of 270, the number of London Underground stations in 2013.

The original numbering referred to the tube challenge route – the optimum route to pass through all stations on the Underground network in the fastest possible time – as set when the work was fabricated. Mirroring the branching of the Northern line from Kennington to form the extension of the Northern line the two new designs are numerically linked to Kennington’s Labyrinth – numbered 110 / 270. The new stations are numbered 110a/270 and 110b/270.

Nine Elms (110a) is based on the embossed family of labyrinths, with nine concentric circles to hint at the station’s name. Battersea Power Station (110b) has a four-cornered structure within the circular outline, a nod to the location’s famous four-chimney landmark.

The new Labyrinths are located in each stations’ ticket hall, with the Battersea Power Station Labyrinth unveiled to London Underground enthusiasts today as a sheet of vinyl was peeled away by TfL staff to reveal the new design. The group then travelled to Nine Elms to unveil the station’s new artwork. The works are on permanent display.

Mark Wallinger said: ‘‘I am delighted and thrilled to have been given the opportunity to use the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the unveiling of the original Labyrinths to create two new ones.

The work was conceived as a celebration of the world’s greatest connective and welcoming public transport network. So I am immensely proud to be able to complete their presence across the network, and celebrate the underground’s reach through Nine Elms to the iconic Power Station, beloved by all Londoners’

Black Blossoms x Art on the Underground Course IIII: Endurance: A Vision of Resilience in a Precarious World

Endurance: A Vision of Resilience in a Precarious World is a new four week course from Black Blossoms and Art on the Underground expanding on the work of artist Shanti Panchal and his artwork for Brixton Underground station. The course will explore how images of resilient communities can intersect with hostile political landscapes. Participants will learn about artist Shanti Panchal’s painting practice and the key themes of interdependency and exile which underpin his work.

The course will also discuss Shanti Panchal’s mural in Shadwell from 1984 commissioned by the Greater London Council (GLC) as part of its Anti-Racist Mural Programme. Thinking through the history and context for mural making particularly in London.

Endurance: A Vision of Resilience in a Precarious World is taught by Curator and Writer Amrita Dhallu and responds to Shanti Panchal’s 2022 Art on the Underground commission, ‘Endurance’, a community portrait which observes our continued resilience and reliance on each other.

Tuesday 26 September 2022 – 24 October 2022 (please note there will be a break on 10 October)

Time: 6.30-7:45pm

Free. Online. Book here.

Courses were delivered live on Zoom and to create an interactive teaching environment, learning material was provided to registered participants prior to each class. Participants can access the learning platform on the Black Blossom’s website which includes the recordings of the live lectures and learning material for 90 days after the last live class.

For full information on the weekly sessions and to access learning material, please visit Black Blossoms’ website here.

Educator: Amrita Dhallu 

Amrita Dhallu is a curator and researcher based in London. She provides support structures for emerging British artists through commissioning, editorial projects, creating artistic networks and intergenerational learning spaces. Her current research examines ‘care’, spatial politics and ethno-futurist discourse within exhibition-making. She is Assistant Curator, International Art at Tate Modern, London, where she co-curated Lubaina Himid’s monographic exhibition (2021-2) and worked on projects such as Rasheed Araeen’s Zero to Infinity (2023) and Hilma af Klint and Piet Mondrian: Forms of Life (2023).

Barby Asante

This September, Art on the Underground presented a newly commissioned iteration of Barby Asante’s seminal performative work Declaration of Independence. The performance, which took place at Stratford Tube station at 2pm on Sunday 17 September, is accompanied by a series of visual artworks situated at Stratford, Bethnal Green and Notting Hill Tube stations.

Declaration of Independence reflects on how declarations, policies and legislations impact our everyday lives. The ongoing project, by London-based artist Barby Asante, brings together women and non-binary people of colour and acknowledges how they are often at the forefront of struggles for equity and social justice.

For this iteration of the work, Art on the Underground have invited Asante to collaborate with TfL employees in a series of workshops to produce a collective script, a new Declaration of Independence for 2023, which will be performed to an audience of thousands this September at Stratford Tube station.

This collaborative, performative and dialogic work will be Asante’s first major commission in public space and will centre TfL employees through a collective process of sharing and learning. A recurrent form and key concept within the work is the circle, as drawn from West Africancommuning traditions. Asante’s circle provides space for dialogue amongst the performers and audiences, to commune, witness, share knowledge, and imagine futures that foreground equity and social justice. By telling their stories, and sharing experiences through performance, the work explores the potential to question existing dominant narratives, reflecting on how the political affects the personal.

As part of this new commission Asante spent time in the photography archives at the London Transport Museum to find images of women of colour at work in different roles across TfL’s history. These found images, including those employed by London Transport’s direct recruitment in Barbados in 1956, are part of the group’s collective process, adding to individual narratives and
enriching the artwork’s examination of postcolonial and migration histories. These archive images also form part of three large-scale visual artworks that will be installed at Stratford, Bethnal Green and Notting Hill Green Tube stations, in which the images are placed in dialogue with words from the ‘Declaration’. Produced on vinyl, these pieces will be set within brightly coloured interconnected shapes and lines, forming new speculative constellations and communicating ideas about histories and futures in a collective voice. Central to this artwork is the development of ways to create and occupy space; installed within touching distance alongside station escalators, and above the Stratford Tube station ticket hall, the previously personal and intimate ‘Declaration’ is propelled onto the public stage.

Alongside the TfL staff participating in the project, Asante invites ongoing collaborators into the development of the work. These include artist and musician, Hannah Catherine Jones; sociologist and Black Feminist, Gail Lewis; psychotherapist and writer Foluke Taylor; artist Baby Blue and
visual artist and music selecta, Innavisions.

Together, the newly written and performed declaration and station artworks foreground black diaspora narratives of non-binary people and women. The work specifically highlights the histories and divisions of labour that have impacted these narratives, capturing the scale and value of this work to London. ‘Declaration’ retells stories of domestic and workplace labour connecting these to wider histories of migration as a legacy of colonialism. The performance demonstrates the importance of collective thinking; by holding public space ‘Declaration’ gives voice to personal narratives and shapes future intentions.

Shenece Oretha: Route Words

 

Art on the Underground is pleased to present a new sound artwork by London-based artist Shenece Oretha. The work has been developed over a period of collaboration and community engagement, working with the Mayor of London’s Culture and Community Spaces at Risk programme (CCSaR), New Beacon Books, Rumi’s Cave and The RecordShop.

This new commission will be heard in London Underground spaces and in the communities near the stations through live performances, listening events and as an online audio. The amplification of voices, accessible through this range of listening experiences, invites space for celebration and reflection.

A live listening of the work plus poetry readings from collaborators involved was held on Thursday 10 August 11:30am-12:30pm at Finsbury Park Underground Station – City North Place exit/entrance.

The work titled Route Words: Where are our voices aloud? centres on Britain’s oldest Black bookshop and publisher, New Beacon Books, based in Finsbury Park. The work draws on New Beacon’s publications’ catalogue, showcasing writing that speaks to the importance of space and language, to a range of communities, their histories and collective futures. The sound piece weaves together extracts from the texts of Erna Brodber, Lorna Goodison, John la Rose, Kamau Brathwaite and Dennis Mitchell to demonstrate the collective force of  word and voice. The work seeks to mobilise and engage people through speaking to the cultural history of the collective voice within New Beacon Books legacy.

The artist’s relationship with New Beacon Books has been extended to conversations with social space Rumi’s Cave in Brent, which is inspired by the legacy of 13th Century poet Jalauddin Rumi, and recording studio The RecordShop in Wood Green, which works with young people. The collaboration between these groups is a joint connection to spaces where words and voice are central to their community formation, purpose and ongoing work. 

These spaces are actively supported by the CCSaR programme and have been invited to read from the score and contribute layers of story, poetry and sound to the work. The range of contributors highlights the voice’s role in advocacy and the importance of exchange and mutual support across these spaces in London. The contributing poets and musicians are Imruh Bakari, Margaret Busby, Greta Dapkute, Rakaya Fetuga, Sagal Gabay, Olivia Opara, Glaiza Padulla, Mary Otumahana aka WondRWomN, JAGO XYEN and Belinda Zhawi

The work will be shared through a poster campaign across the Tube network with a QR code allowing customers to listen to the audio and experience it on their journeys. In addition to this listening experience Finsbury Park Underground station, closest to New Beacon Books, will host a series of special performances from the collaborating poets, writers and musicians. These performances will allow travellers to experience the power of words and recitation to create a communal space. 

This work marks a new strand of collaborative community engagement and art commissioning for Art on the Underground. It is the start of a series of sound commissions developed through an engagement with the CCSaR programme and the communities around Underground stations to spotlight the work of organisations who face structural barriers to sustaining space in the capital and to create and share resonances from them across the city. 

The work was recorded at The Recordshop, Wood Green with Sound Engineer Keir McCabe.

Text extracts from New Beacon Books publications include:
Myal – Erna Brodber
History  of The Voice – Kamau Braithwaite
Eyelets of Truth Within Me – John La Rose
Dreadwalk – Dennis Scott
Heartease – Lorna Goodison

With additional support from Arts Council England National Lottery Project Grant

Pond Life: Albertopolis and the Lily

Monster Chetwynd combines historic references, theatrical aesthetics, and popular culture to tell stories that reflect on society and morality. Her installation, Pond Life: Albertopolis and the Lily, reveals the entwined histories of Gloucester Road station and the vast programme of cultural redevelopment that followed the Great Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park.

Through her research into Gloucester Road and the local area Monster Chetwynd became fascinated by the giant Amazonian waterlily. This plant was the inspiration behind gardener-turned-architect Joseph Paxton’s pioneering design for the Crystal Palace, the building which housed the Great Exhibition. Paxton based the structure on the waterlily’s elaborate network of ribbed veins, creating a modular, kit-form design which paved the way for successive public buildings and revolutionised architecture. Revenue from tickets to the Great Exhibition provided capital for the construction of the museums situated along Exhibition Road, these new developments created a cultural destination known as ‘Albertopolis’.

At Gloucester Road Tube station, Chetwynd creates a series of five 4-metre diameter disc-shaped sculptures along the length of a disused platform. Each sculpture is populated with creatures – beetles, dragonfly larvae, tadpoles and tortoises – that appear to be constructing sections of the Crystal Palace. They show the underwater life of the submerged lily pads, their spiny network of veins playing host to the industrious wildlife. Rather than stepping down into the tunnels of the London Underground it is as if the viewer has stepped beneath the surface of the water, into a subterranean simulation of the Amazon. A freestanding salamander, holding an Amazonian lily pad as a parasol, is an anthropomorphic addition to this scene of amphibian industry. The sculptures reference the commemorative coins, medallions and souvenirs that were created to commemorate the Great Exhibition, as well as the array of terracotta animal sculptures that decorate the exterior walls and vaulted galleries of the Natural History Museum.

A trailer for a new film by Monster Chetwynd, Who named the Lily? is also on view in the station. It celebrates and laments the complicated history of the Crystal Palace. Chetwynd plays the ‘Fact Hungry Witch’, who explores the story of the Amazonian waterlily, and reveals its links to engineering. Shot on 35mm film by artist-filmmaker Margaret Salmon at locations including Chatsworth House, The London Transport Museum and the Natural History Museum. It features a cast of performers, including the historian and broadcaster, Adam John Hart-Davis and a group of young people from FAT studio, a community-led initiative based at London’s Old Kent Road. The artwork brings to light the politics of Paxton’s developments in industry and architecture; however, the protagonist of this story is the waterlily – a catalyst for ground-breaking technological advancement.

Monster Chetwynd has also devised an interactive detective hunt, aimed at families at South Kensington, the ‘Fact Hungry Witch’ invites participants to find clues hidden in her seven poster artworks situated along the South Kensington pedestrian tunnel.

Chetwynd’s commission for Art on the Underground builds on the artist’s track record of creating public artworks that engage broad and varied audiences through evocative references and an uplifting, irreverent sense of fun.

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