As part of One Thing Leads to Another – Everything is Connected, a series of contemporary art projects for the Jubilee line, Irish artist John Gerrard presented a large-scale installation of his work Oil Stick Work (Angelo Martinez / Richfield, Kansas) 2008 on a vast bespoke wall in Canary Wharf station.
Using customised game-design software to craft stunningly accurate virtual worlds, Gerrard projects a complex digital moving image that eerily develops in real time and will continue to do so over the next 30 years. The viewer joins this hyper-real scene three years into its slowly unfolding story on a desolate Midwest prairie.
At daybreak (PST), the tiny figure of Angelo Martinez, a Mexican-American builder, arrives at a solitary aluminium corn silo and carefully paints a perfect black one metre square on the exterior of the structure with an oil stick crayon. Working a six-day week, from dawn to dusk, Martinez will painstakingly paint the entire building, transforming it into a black void on the virtual landscape. On the 20th December Angelo will finish painting the first wall and at dawn (CST) on the 21st December will start a new wall. In 2038, he will complete the task and leave the scene.
The viewer is left in no doubt, Martinez could be anyone of us making a futile but resolute attempt to change the way things are, one stroke at a time. It’s no coincidence that Gerrard invites the commuters of Canary Wharf to watch the Mexican’s daily progress over the course of the year that his vast ‘virtual sculpture’ is on show at the station.