The Artist’s Tour of London by Tube

Ruth Ewan, Liam Gillick

2 January 2012 – 31 December 2012

Art on the Underground presents The Artist’s Tour of London by Tube, a series of artworks that invite you to explore the city from a distinct and different perspective.

To create this series of works artists are invited to consider the way the Tube serves London and the role the Tube map plays as navigational and guiding tool.

The tours presented in this series are neither maps nor posters such as the ones historically commissioned by London Underground, but instead are a combination of the two and point you on a journey where you are free to decide if the destination should be real or imaginary. Some tours do not require any physical movement around the city but simply propose a fantasy wander about London. Other tours can be used as maps that work as a guide to a specific area chosen by the artist. All the tours are a way to discover new places or to rediscover old and familiar ones, offering the opportunity to shape the city using the imagination.

Each tour is listed by title and the name of the artist who has created it. We invite you to print out the PDF of each tour and hope that you are intrigued by the potential of where each tour may take you.

Over the coming months this series will be updated with more tours in the form of PDFs and some in the form of podcasts. We hope you continue to visit the website to keep updated on the latest tour.

We are pleased to launch the series with tours from Liam Gillick and Ruth Ewan.

Liam Gillick

Download Liam Gillick’s Tour PDF

Previously commissioned by AOTU to create an artwork for the Tube Map Covers series, Liam has created a tour that focuses on Holborn, St. Paul’s and Chancery Lane. The names of places are written in a series of circles that sandwich the ways in which the artist suggests you explore those locations, ‘walk, walk, walk, tube, tube, tube’. The red letters frame a white circle in the centre, leaving a blank space at the epicenter where the imagination is free to place anything the viewer wishes.

 Ruth Ewan

Download Ruth Ewan’s Tour PDF

In 2011 Ruth Ewan was commissioned by AOTU to create a project for the Central Line Series. The commission culminated in A LOCK IS A GATE, an experimental album created in collaboration with Laburnum Boat Club in Hackney alongside poet Evelynn Sharp and composer Kerry Andrews. Ruth’s tour is an imaginary tour rather than a physical one. It works with the iconic Harry Beck Tube Map (still used by London Underground today, although updated to reflect changes in the network) and invites you to spell words out across the city using specific routes that create individual letters. For example, to create the letter A, follow the following stations with a pencil:

Like a dot-to-dot drawing that guides the pencil, this tour lets you create letters via a series of routes plotted on stations across the network. Use the alloted routes to create letters and spell your own words across London.


3.4 billion journeys are taken on the Tube every year by a diverse range of people who live, work in and visit London from all over the world. The network they travel on spans the entire City, connecting the north, south, east and west and central London to the outer regions of Greater London.

Art on the Underground offers all Underground passengers a chance to see their journeys from a new perspective, what ever the purpose of their trip. This project brings together artists’ proposals for using the network as an opportunity for exploration and adventure as well as a way of getting from A to B.

London Underground has a long tradition of commissioning artists and graphic designers for every part of its design needs. Posters are a particularly rich area in which the Tube is a patron of the arts. They have been created to promote all aspects of Tube travel from going out and about in London’s local boroughs and visiting attractions in the city, to highlighting a wide range of features on the network and promoting good behavior whilst travelling.

Charles Sharlan’s poster from 1910: All the year round by Underground for country walks is a simple invitation to take a walk around one of the areas serviced by the Underground, while May Ray’s 1938 two part poster titled Keeps London Going and London Transport is a statement about the network. Here the artist presents the London Underground logo with Saturn, perhaps alluding to the idea that it’s a different world under ground or maybe that, via the Underground, a whole new world is there to be discovered?

Cartography, the practice of making maps, has been refined and modified over the centuries to create accurate maps that function as navigational tools.

The London Underground map is unique as it is a graphic representation of the world below that communicates with simplicity and clarity, the complex layout of the Tube network beneath the city. London has long been a source of creative inspiration for artists, writers, poets, and songwriters and in turn the London Underground map has also inspired artists. Simon Patterson’s The Great Bear for example, has become a very popular ‘version’ of the map and Cornelia Parker and Barbara Kruger are just two artists who have made images for the pocket Tube map cover taking the Underground map as their inspiration.

Watch this page for more Artists’ Tours of London by Tube

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