Turner Prize-winning artist Rachel Whiteread was commissioned by Art on the Underground to create the twentieth cover of London’s free pocket Tube map, The Hole of London 2014.
A consistent focus for Whiteread and the sculptures she has created is the negative space of existing objects. Her works on paper also draw from existing forms and the piece she has created for the Tube map cover is no different in this respect. Her proposal was to literally puncture the front cover of the pocket Tube map with a number of circular holes – perhaps in reference to the round logo of the Tube. In doing so the map inside would be revealed through the creation of an array of small round windows, allowing for glimpses of what is on the inside.
On closer inspection though, we find that all is not as it seems. In fact Whiteread provokes a double-take by producing a delightful Trompe l’oeil where the ‘holes’ exactly reproduce the corresponding sections of the map on the inside. Her title for the work extends the joke through a pun in a way that reminds us of how the Tube is integral to London.
Rachel Whiteread explains, “As a sculptor I cast empty spaces, it therefore seemed appropriate to make some holes in London which theoretically could be filled up….”
Whiteread’s work for the pocket Tube map cover takes an approach that is familiar throughout her practice, that of working with what is already there, rather than adding something new.
She has cast negative space in a range of materials from concrete and plaster to resin and rubber. In this way she has memorialized the spaces found in chairs, wardrobes, rooms and larger spaces as she did with House (1993) and in her more recent works that feature garden sheds. The objects she has created in this way range from water tower, high up in the New York City skyline, to the translucent resin cast of the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, Untitled Monument, (2001).
This playful work provides another, different, perspective on London Underground as the twentieth in the series of contemporary art works for the cover of the pocket Tube map.