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Twist Out

Art on the Underground are pleased to present the 36th commission for the pocket Tube map cover by London-based artist Joy Labinjo.

Titled Twist Out, the artwork accompanies Labinjo’s large-scale commission, 5 more minutes currently on view at Brixton Underground station. This new map marks the launch of London’s Elizabeth line which will be opening on Tuesday 24 May.

Labinjo’s artwork for the pocket Tube map cover depicts an intimate shared routine between a mother and daughter. A mother combs and divides sections of her daughter’s hair in preparation for a ‘twist out’ hairstyle. The scene draws on Labinjo’s experiences as a British-Nigerian woman and her memories of having her hair styled by her mother as a child.

Throughout her practice, Joy Labinjo often uses the power of storytelling to connect the figures in her work with broader themes. In this case, she asks us to consider how we are shaped by the quiet domestic routines that we share with family as much as by life’s larger events.

Labinjo created her original artwork using pastel on paper in her signature style of bold and sculptural strokes that are tinged with the warmth of personal recollection. The artist’s subtle humour animates the work – a shimmer of boredom is captured in the sideways glance of the girl, as she perhaps imagines where she would rather be.

Twist Out also links to the themes of community and belonging that are present in 5 more minutes, Labinjo’s commission for Brixton station, which depicts the imagined interior of a Black hair salon. In her portrayals of everyday private and public rituals around hair, Labinjo reflects on the experience of Black women and celebrates the visibility of Black female culture.

Hair and hairstyling have long been an important part of Black female history, as a positive expression of identity and culture but also as a conduit for racial discrimination and oppression. The ‘twist out’ hairstyle is notable as a style that transitions to a more natural look, away from using chemicals to relax and straighten Black hair, in adherence to Eurocentric beauty standards. In her exploration of hair as a subject matter, Joy Labinjo invites the viewer to consider the fullness of the Black female experience.

Joy Labinjo’s May 2022 Tube Map cover and large-scale public commission at Brixton Underground station coincide with two presentations of her new work, ‘Ode to Olaudah Equiano’ at Chapter Gallery Cardiff, UK (25 March – 3 July 2022) and ‘Full Ground’ at Tiwani Contemporary, Lagos, Nigeria (25 February – 7 May 2022).

Joy Labinjo’s large-scale figurative paintings often depict intimate scenes of historical and contemporary life, both real and imagined. She uses sources including family photographs, found images and historical material. Her work connects to broad themes around history, identity, political voice, power, Blackness and race, and also relate to personal experiences of community and family.

PAN AFRICAN FLAG FOR THE RELIC TRAVELLERS' ALLIANCE (UNION)

Art on the Underground are pleased to present a new permanent commission for Westminster station by British-Ghanaian artist Larry Achiampong.

Achiampong’s artwork re-imagines the iconic London Underground roundel logo which for more than 100 years has been both a navigation tool and an instantly recognisable symbol for London. Achiampong’s new version replaces the traditional red and blue design with Pan African colours that speak symbolically to African diasporic identities while also acknowledging their contributions and presence in London. Green, black and red reflect the land, the people and the struggles the African continent has endured, while yellow-gold represents a new day and prosperity. He incorporates 54 stars arranged around the edge of the roundel, representing each of the 54 countries of the African continent joined in union.

Achiampong first re-imagined the London Underground roundel in 2019 as part of a temporary commission for Westminster Underground station, ‘PAN AFRICAN FLAGS FOR THE RELIC TRAVELLER’S ALLIANCE’ 2019. Eight new designs were displayed across seventy sites throughout the station. The new roundel will remain permanently installed above the main entrance to the station on Westminster Bridge Road, enlarged and rendered in vibrant vitreous enamel and painted metal colours.

In developing his project, Achiampong was inspired by Adinkra, a Ghanaian system of symbols created by the Akan people and used in textile designs, logos and pottery or incorporated into architectural features. The symbols convey short concepts and proverbs that relate to everyday life and the environment. The roundel also relates to the artist’s concept of ‘Sanko-time’, based in the Ashanti word ‘Sankofa’, which roughly translated means ‘Go back and retrieve’. Achiampong combines these ideas and images from West-African traditions with his broader interest in science fiction and time travel through the unearthing of hidden stories.

Earlier in 2022 Achimapong presented the 35th commission for the cover of London Underground’s pocket Tube map, titled ‘What I Hear I Keep’ and featuring a bold star and chevron design using the Pan African colours. Achiampong explains that his work with Art on the Underground since 2019 is intended to “explore imagination and a sense of connectedness between the African diaspora, and to reconsider their often forgotten or erased contributions to the city.”

5 more minutes

Art on the Underground presents 5 more minutes, a new large-scale public commission at Brixton Underground station by London-based artist Joy Labinjo – launching 11 November 2021 and on view for one year. Drawing on her personal experiences of growing up in the UK with British-Nigerian heritage, Labinjo’s commission explores ideas of memory and belonging, and the significance of the hair salon as a centre of community in both the artist’s personal experience as well as in wider Black British female culture.

This work is the fifth in a series of commissions at Brixton station, following on from Helen Johnson, Denzil Forrester, Aliza Nisenbaum and Njideka Akunyili Crosby. The programme invites artists to respond to the diverse narratives of the local murals painted in the 1980s, the rapid development of the area and the wider social and political history of mural making.

For her new commission, 5 more minutes, Labinjo depicts the interior of an imagined hair salon, an amalgamation of the spaces that the artist has visited over her life. The scene represents how the salon might look on a Saturday morning, with women and children of different generations gathered and interacting together, including recognisable and nostalgic details from the salon’s interior. The composition of the painting, brought to life using a vivid palette of colours, originates from the Labinjo’s lived experience, using images from family albums, online and historical sources, as well as from memory. Hair salons are a central part of the Afro-Caribbean community in Brixton. They have endured significant changes to the local area and continue to play an essential role.

Labinjo’s commission is rooted in the fabric of Brixton’s vibrant and diverse communities. Throughout her life, Labinjo would travel to Brixton specifically to get her hair done and, for the artist, the area’s hair salons evoke a strong sense of identity and emotional connection, exemplifying the strength of Brixton’s local community. The artist portrays the intimacy of the space by showing the conversations and relationships between women, bringing this Black British female experience to the fore. By depicting the smells, sounds and textures of the salon, she evokes a sense of place, enabling viewers to imagine themselves there. At its core, the commission is a celebration of Black female culture.

Public Programme: Alexandre da Cunha, 'Sunset, Sunrise, Sunset'

Starting in August 2021 and focussing around the date of the autumn equinox a series of talks, workshops and events will expand on the themes and ideas within da Cunha’s artwork connecting it to site, publics, community and contemporary art practice.

The public programme will be delivered across different formats and registers to be of interest to a range of audiences – artists, art students, arts professionals, local community, schools and young people.

Taking the title Sunset, Sunrise, Sunset, the public programme acts as a conceptual framing for a series of events timed to register the suggested moments of the day.

Local collaborators include, Urban Canopy, who have been creating gardens and engaging communities with horticulture, art and education in the Patmore Estate since 2018. Starting August 2021 a series of workshops will work with local residents to maintain and develop local community garden sites, thinking through cycles of the day, of nature, seasons of planting and how we move through, pay attention and contribute to our outside environments.

A series of workshops will also be programmed for local groups with Photofusion, founded not far from the new stations as a photo coop in 1979. Photofusion have developed a programme of photography workshops connecting to observing and recording moments of the day from sunset photography walks to Solargraphy a process of long exposure photography that captures of the image of the sun moving across the sky. Working with Elays Network’s youth project, Battersea Women’s Network, Fast – Youth Battersea and open access sessions, workshops will centre the camera’s focus on the sky – its movement, cycles and presence.

 

A series of talks with Alexandre da Cunha planned for November 2021 will also offer insight into the process and development of ideas towards the final artwork.

sit alongside and feel me breathe

Helen Cammock, sit alongside and feel me breathe, is the new cover artwork for the 34th edition of the pocket Tube map, commissioned by Art on the Underground. Originally conceived as a Tube map cover, the piece was extended and featured alongside two further text-based artworks as part of an ambitious city-wide poster commission.

For her Tube map cover, Cammock explores the notion of ‘breath’ within crisis. The words sit alongside and feel me breathe punctuate a deep purple background, reflecting on our human response to the events that have unfolded over the past eighteen months: the effects of a global pandemic; the death of George Floyd and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests; the ecological challenges we continue to face; and the inequalities made evident through Covid-19.

The symbolism of ‘breath’ takes on an increased significance due to the respiratory nature of Covid-19 and the murder of George Floyd. There is no escaping the air we share, we are intrinsically linked by our need for breath – this artwork questions the value we see in and feel for others, and explores people’s attitude towards the habitation of public space.

Over the past year, physical and digital public spaces have been filled with instructional messaging, advising on how to behave in the interest of public health. Helen Cammock’s language, tone and the spacing of her words gives pause from this, bringing a human voice to reflect upon how we occupy our environment again. Her Tube map cover is a monument to a moment in time, disseminated throughout the city it will live on in coat pockets, desk draws and the bottom of bags, marking a collective experience.

The artwork for the 34th edition of the Tube map explores the concept of empathy and people’s attitude towards public space. Covid-19 has dramatically altered our understanding of other people’s physical presence, however, the Tube is a public space which we inhabit together. Cammock’s artwork metaphorically questions togetherness – as a society can we ‘sit alongside’ one another?

Brixton Botanical Map

This map of green spaces in Brixton addresses the legacies of the British empire and celebrates local botanical education, community gardening and food growing initiatives, whilst looking at gardens as places to consider injustice, oppression and colonial legacy.

The map features seven green spaces in and around Brixton, which detail the entwined histories of colonialism and botany, and signpost local community gardening initiatives. It also features a kid’s trail, a glossary which queries the common use of colonial and racist language in horticulture, a reading list and a list of additional local green spaces.

By unearthing sensitive histories, the Brixton Botanical Map highlights green spaces as sites of learning, loss and remembrance, but also of radical action and possibility.

This map responds to, and expands on, ‘Things Held Fast’, a new public commission at Brixton Underground station by Australian artist Helen Johnson.

Collect your free copy from Brixton Underground station, Brixton Library, Brixton Windmill Centre, Brockwell Park Community Garden, the Garden Museum and the South London Botanical Institute or download a free pdf below.

Helen Cammock

Art on the Underground presents an ambitious city-wide commission by British artist Helen Cammock, which responds to the events that unfolded in 2020 and 2021. Launching on 28 July 2021 and on view for a year, the commission will be exhibited in poster sites in seven Underground stations across London, including Aldgate East, Charing Cross, Earl’s Court, Holland Park, South Kensington, St James’s Park and White City.

For the artist’s first major public commission, Cammock has created three new text-based artworks which reflect on our human response to the events that have unfolded over the past year: the effects of a global pandemic; the death of George Floyd and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests; the ecological challenges we continue to face; and the inequalities made evident through Covid-19. Her artworks consider the intersectionality of our lives and how our social and political identities are interconnected. Each work references the physical experience of travelling on the Tube, whilst also exploring our emotional response to a year like no other. With her characteristic economy of language, Cammock presents a provocation for a more compassionate future.

The first work in the series reads ‘the edge is never still’, which reflects on the idea of ‘the edge’; the feeling of being ‘on edge’ and how our emotional ‘edge’ is always a shifting site has changed over the past year. The work explores the notion of the edge as being something permeable and constantly evolving over time through our individual experience. It also references the architectural space of the edge of the platform and the edge of the train. We stand in the train on a solid floor and yet the site on which we stand is moving. These edges are doing a dance of transition as we move from one space to another. The second poster in the series reads, ‘glass distortions don’t impair my view merely change it’, which plays on the idea of distortion as negative and how we transform to experience things anew. The artwork references seeing through a lens – or the windows of the Tube – and the idea of living on the inside and looking out.

The final artwork in the series reads ‘sit alongside and feel me breathe’ and explores the symbolism of ‘breath’ within crisis, which has recently taken on an increased significance due to the respiratory nature of Covid-19 and the murder of George Floyd. It asks a question about the value and worth we see in (and feel for) others and explores people’s attitude towards the habitation of public space. The artwork explores the concept of empathy and people’s attitude towards public space. Covid-19 has dramatically altered our understanding of other people’s physical presence, however, the Tube is a public space which we inhabit together. Cammock’s artwork metaphorically questions togetherness – as a society can we ‘sit alongside’ one another? The work questions how we can regain the fundamental principles of our social engagement with strangers as we begin to reinhabit shared spaces.

Over the past year, physical and digital public spaces have been filled with instructional messaging, advising on how to behave in the interest of public health. Helen Cammock’s language, tone and the spacing of her words gives pause from this, bringing a human voice to reflect upon how we occupy our environment again. Her commission ruminates on resilience, transition, and collective experience, exploring how people can respond to the events of the last year by coming together and opening ourselves up to the experiences we share.

Sankofa School Poster Competition

Art on the Underground invited a class of year 10 art & design students from Westminster City School to take part in a poster competition inspired by Larry Achiampong’s ambitious public commission, PAN AFRICAN FLAGS FOR THE RELIC TRAVELLERS’ ALLIANCE’ 2019 which reimagined London Underground’s iconic roundel at Westminster Underground station.

The final design was chosen by artist Shepherd Manyika who led a workshop with the students, including portrait drawing, a mapping exercise, a visit to Westminster station, sketching in the surrounding area and responding to a brief.

The brief was to create an image for a poster design inspired by Larry Achiampong’s commission. The students were asked to respond to:

  • The redesign of an iconic London or British design in a way that changes its meaning and makes you feel more represented both culturally and personally;
  • The idea of ‘sankofa’ – using the past to prepare for the future.

 

The winning design by Niaz Rahman has been produced by a professional designer and will be exhibited at Westminster station throughout the summer.

Niaz said about his work: “My poster design is called ‘Equality’ because it represents people of all ethnicities and sends the message that we should be United. My main idea was to redesign the London Underground roundel, using inspiration from coats of arms I’ve researched from centuries past. I used trains which I distorted using Photoshop and reflected, to create the circle in my design. The bar going through the middle is made of all the different tube lines. On either side of this are perched pigeons, as these became such an iconic part of central London and Trafalgar Square. A British Bulldog slouched on top of my design, representing how Britain’s success rests on the achievements of many cultures. In the background of the poster, I have placed every flag on a low opacity, to allow them to compliment rather than clash with the design. The silhouetted footprints represent our path from the past into the future learning from our mistakes. The slogan I chose to show reads ‘Colours don’t fight they create something new’ because it occurred to me so many things couldn’t be created without colour mixing and there would be so much less variety and interest in life if we didn’t mix and respect each other.”

Elaine Chance, Head of Art at Westminster City School said about the project: “They watched the video of Larry Achiampong’s work and said they liked the way he was fighting for social justice, equality for all with his work, and it had more meaning than they realised when they first saw it. The idea that the colours of the roundel are very imperialist had never struck them so they looked at the colour in Achiampong’s designs and the underground differently following the workshop.”

Shepherd Manyika is a London based artist who works with mixed media. Manyika is interested in representations, drawing narratives from found images and the everyday. Manyika graduated in BA Fine Art at Central Saint Martin’s in 2011 and MA in Academic Practice in Art, Design and Communication, from Central Saint Martins 2019. He exhibited at Royal Academy School of Arts with the Parasites school residency and works on various education programmes across London.

Things Held Fast

Art on the Underground present Things Held Fast, a new large-scale public commission at Brixton Underground station by Australian artist Helen Johnson, on view from 20 May – November 2021. For her first major public commission, Johnson represents Brixton through the lens of a community garden – a shared space of growth that builds over time due to collective commitment.

Johnson’s is the fourth in a series of commissions at Brixton station, following on from Denzil Forrester, Aliza Nisenbaum and Njideka Akunyili Crosby. The programme invites artists to respond to the diverse narratives of the local murals painted in the 1980s, the rapid development of the area and the wider social and political history of mural making.

For her new commission, Things Held Fast, Johnson depicts a group of figures gardening, absorbed in their tasks and conversation and connected by the investment of their shared energies in a communal space. Much of the painting’s imagery is drawn from the Lambeth Archives, which provided insight into organisations, projects and movements that underlie the community at the heart of Brixton. For example, the owl depicted is taken from a protest banner to save Lambeth libraries, children are shown climbing a cherry blossom tree, referencing the Cherry Tree childcare centre that was closed amidst much local protest, and the whirligig beetle and pondlife depicted can all be found in nearby Myatt’s Fields. The painting’s vignettes are signifiers of history, growing and interconnected like plants in the soil. They are represented in fragments and details, but tell the stories of community organisations and movements such as the Lambeth Women’s Project; anti-racist organisations like Unity Centre; gardening groups like the one at Myatt’s Fields Park; or the movement to save local libraries.

Johnson’s commission also explores a common theme in the artist’s practice, the construction of national identity and the legacies of colonisation. Embedded in the layered surface of Things Held Fast, is an image derived from Robert Dodd’s engraving Mutiny on the Bounty (1790), which depicts mutineers ejecting Vice-Admiral William Bligh from his ship. The mutiny took place on a journey to transplant breadfruit trees from Tahiti to the Caribbean as a food source for the enslaved people who were there under British colonial rule. Subsequently, William Bligh was appointed as Governor to the British colony of New South Wales, where he oversaw the dispossession of indigenous peoples and unspeakable violence towards them. Bligh, a resident of Lambeth between 1754-1817, became a negative connection for the artist to Brixton. As a white artist living in Australia, Johnson wanted to acknowledge this colonial history and represent the opposing trajectories of Bligh, who travelled to the Caribbean for purposes of subjugation and dispossession; and the African and Caribbean communities who many years later established themselves in the UK, where, up against hostility and socio-economic inequalities, they continued to foster solidarity and cultivate strong communities.

Research for Things Held Fast began in late 2019 at a moment when Australia was ravaged by one of the worst bushfires in its history. For Johnson, the loss caused by the fires gave rise to appreciation of what remained and what is valuable. The commission was painted in Melbourne, in lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic; this second challenging context served as a reminder to the artist that community is vital for our sense of collective purpose and wellbeing.

Things Held Fast represents multiple stories, densely layered, that will reveal themselves gradually over time. It does not take a single history or movement as its subject, but rather is a vehicle for thinking about how a multitude of narratives can lay the foundation for something greater.

The 33rd edition of the pocket tube map cover by Phyllida Barlow, a bright yellow artwork overlaid with colourful geometric shapes mimicking tube tunnels, in the hand of a member of the public.

helter skelter

Phyllida Barlow, helter skelter, is the new cover commission for the 33rd edition of the pocket Tube map series commissioned by Art on the Underground, for Transport for London.

Made in lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic helter skelter is a new work on paper that marks the instability of our time. Comprised of Barlow’s signature bold colours and shapes, helter skelter is a tower of platforms and tubes balanced precariously on top of one another, on the brink of collapse.

The ramp, the barrier and the tower are forms that have appeared repeatedly in Barlow’s work throughout her 50-year career and are reflected here in an array of pink, blue, purple, orange and red colours in acrylic and pencil on paper. Barlow is captivated by the idea of being both physically and metaphorically on the edge of breaking. How things collapse, deteriorate and are then repaired forms a central tenet of the work which the artist sees as a great metaphor for the human condition and our current time.

helter skelter mimics the Underground architecture with an energy and urgency much celebrated in Barlow’s wider practice. Renowned for sculpture as well as works on paper, Barlow’s practice encourages us to experience her work physically. There is an expediency to how she works both on paper and via the materials she uses in her sculptures. Recycled timbre, scree, concrete, plaster, polystyrene and expanding foam create unapologetic, adventurous and gigantic gargantuan forms. Her works recontextualise and displace objects, rendering them useless and absurd. Looking at the city is an important source of inspiration for these works and drawing, a method for realising these ideas.

Barlow is interested in opposites in her work – thrilling but dangerous, towering and precarious – as a metaphor for how we live. She allows us to experience both the precarity and absurdity of the world with a great humour and pathos that couldn’t feel more timely.

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