Well known for her deeply revealing works, Tracey Emin was commissioned by Art on the Underground to make the 16th pocket Tube map cover for the London Olympic and Paralympic year.
The artwork, entitled The Central line, features a chirping bird sitting on a ‘branch’ of the Northern line.
When Emin was invited to make a new work for the cover, she was interested in the prospect of making something that would be distributed amongst such a large and diverse audience and that would be an integral element of a travel tool that millions pick up and use every day. She aimed to create an image that would reflect the personal and intimate nature of this object, and would make people to feel reassured about travelling on the Underground.
The artwork made by Emin utilises a technique frequently seen as part of her practise, a line drawing made as a mono-print. It depicts a bird sitting on a branch of the Northern line, which is connected to the Central line. The clear link to the Tube map, without the use of the colours, and to nature, combine two elements that Emin felt would offer her audience something compelling yet comforting to contemplate.
The bird as a motif has been important in Emin’s work for many years. Her focus on the Central line is also personal to her because it’s the line she uses most frequently; it takes her from her home in East London to the centre of the City. She has also added the names of a handful of stations and places that represent something of importance for her, for example, Oxford Circus, Victoria, and Shoreditch. The personal references within her artworks have been at the very core of Emin’s artistic output throughout her career and the use of the hand-drawn image defines one of the most important strands in her work.