For the 31st edition of the Pocket Tube map, Art on the Underground have commissioned a new work by Welsh artist Bedwyr Williams. As the UK approach leaving the European Union and move towards an uncertain future, this commission is part of a year-long programme which brings together international artists to explore the emotional weight of longing and belonging to the city as it crosses this edge.
Williams continues with his iconic series of black and white caricatures which merge art and life with a comedic twist. The work, titled Morden, comprises a male and female head, sporting fashionable haircuts and both wearing thick rimmed spectacles, hand-drawn in black ink. Intersecting red, white and blue lines, invoking the colours of the Union Flag, connect the two faces through the circular forms of their spectacles. Within the context of Art on the Underground’s 2019 programme, Williams gently mocks these ‘art world’ characters and by extension notions of identity and belonging – their befuddled expressions chime with the unsettled times we find ourselves in. Morden is an apt metaphor, signalling the end of the Northern line and a nation on edge individually, collectively, politically and socially.
Born and based in Wales, Williams’s work has long drawn on ideas of belonging – to the art world, clubs, Wales and the United Kingdom – using satire, caricature and irony to highlight folly and injustice. His wry humour often questions cultural snobbery and elevates minute observations to a monumental scale. Working across a diverse range of media from drawing, sculpture, installation, performance and video, Williams draws on the banalities and idiosyncrasies of his life and the world around him. Within the modest scale of the Pocket Tube map, the artist questions what national identity means in the current polarised climate.
Bedwyr Williams commented: “ I remember getting my first ever travel card at Tooting Bec station in the early nineties and how travelling on the tube to college heralded this period of observation for me as a shy gangly kid from quiet North Wales. I think I must have stared a lot at people’s clothes, shoes and spectacles back then which is embarrassing. The tube is such a sensory experience and as an artist I feel privileged to create something that will play a part in that.”