For the 26th edition of the pocket Tube map, Art on the Underground have commissioned Dutch artist Lily van der Stokker to create a new artwork – her first public commission in the UK.
For the commission she has created a text piece about travelling on the Underground. Written in her distinctly youthful handwriting and using a soft palette, the text is an observation of the stolen moments between strangers on the Tube: ‘out next stop’; ‘who is he’; ‘where do they go’. Van der Stokker’s pieces always begin with small drawings, which usually transition into large, even monumental, wall drawings. However, for the Tube map cover she has retained this original scale.
Written in the first person and using language that is informal, she creates a kind of intimacy for a commission which is small in scale but vast in reach. The text ends ‘I know where I am going’, and through her apparent simplicity van der Stokker subverts our assumptions about our individual journeys.
Van der Stokker initially came to prominence at the beginning of the 90s and has been making colourful drawings, wall paintings and installations for more than 30 years. Her work features fluid shapes, soft-edged bubble writing, flowers and ornamental patterns all in child-like pastels or bright fluorescents. She amplifies female clichés in both style and subject matter; themes of kindness and beauty cohabit with domestic labour and decorative interiors. Van der Stokker’s work addresses many of the complexities of feminism and conventions of gender.
Van der Stokker’s cartoony doodles have a girlish palette that verges on saccharine; her work is stereotypically ‘feminine’, if femininity were characterised by the archetypal teenage girl. Her naïve style can sometimes mask the perceptiveness and ingenuity of her work, but the power of van der Stokker’s art lies in its candour. The witty texts that accompany her images often complicate their initial impression, and language plays a key role in her work, often in self-evident descriptions such as ‘I am an artwork, and I am 3 years old’. There is an irreverence to van der Stokker’s work; through her assertive use of decoration and humour she destabilizes a number of ingrained assumptions surrounding femininity and optimism.