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 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.
Eduardo Paolozzi’s mosaics at Tottenham Court Road are one of the most spectacular examples of public art in London. Completed in 1986, the glass mosaics cover 950 sq metres featuring prominently on the Northern line and Central line platforms and an array of interconnecting spaces. The mosaics reflect Paolozzi’s interpretation of the local area and his wider interest in mechanisation, urbanisation, popular culture and everyday life.
As part of a major renovation of the station, the mosaics have undergone significant restoration and conservation work. Around 95 percent of the mosaics have been retained at the station while it underwent a huge expansion to prepare for the introduction of the Elizabeth line and meet the needs of London’s growing population. Restoration and repair work has taken place on the Northern and Central line platforms, and in the Rotunda.
One of the final and most complex aspects of the project was the relocation of the striking mosaic panel from the former Oxford Street entrance. Following intensive planning and consultation with conservation experts, the artwork was carefully removed from the wall in one piece and lowered down a lift shaft to begin its new life at platform level.
Sections of the arches that could not be relocated within the station were transported to the world-renowned Edinburgh College of Art, based in the city where Eduardo Paolozzi studied in 1943 and later became a visiting professor. They are currently being used in teaching a new undergraduate programme, ‘Edinburgh Collections’, and the University is consulting with specialists over how best to reconstruct the mosaics into a new piece of public art.
To find out more about the restoration project, watch our documentary below.
The project focuses on night-time workers, with a number of interviews made with those who regularly work nights across a wide range of job roles. Those interviewed often work between 8 to 12 hour shifts, some have been doing so for over 15 years.
Tabrizian has taken an abstract approach to representing night-time workers. She has photographed the image of an individual walking through an empty landscape. The boundary of day to night is captured through a gloaming sky. The landscape appears at first glance to be rural, but is in fact in the city, with glimpsed train tracks and flat blocks beyond.
In a second image, devoid of people, an isolated building stands alone against a wide sky in a dawning light. These images stand in for a wider community of night time workers living as if on the edge of the city.
The works are displayed at huge scale at Southwark station, utilising billboards on The Cut and Blackfriars Road. Sitting prominently in the city centre, the project is an attempt to bring the margin to the centre, to indicate the significance of the people whose work is essential to London’s existence, without which the city would not survive.