Paint job

Tube journeys are rarely a pleasurable experience. At best, they’re hot; at worst, someone’s sick on the floor and your nose is thrust underneath an onion-munching man’s armpit.

However, Art on the Underground goes some way to adding a little ray of cultural sunshine to the whole sorry commuter experience.

A highlight of the Transport for London-run programme is Irish artist John Gerrard’s digital projection Oil Stick Work (Angelo Martinez / Richfield, Kansas) 2008 at Canary Wharf station.  

Angelo paints the building
John Gerrard’s digital projection Oil Stick Work

The massive digital projection will remain in place for 30 years, during which time it develops in real time.

The piece is based on the American Dust Bowl catastrophe of the 1930s when intensive post-war farming of a one million square mile area caused vast dust storms, engulfing the landscape and generally wreaking havoc.

Gerrard’s work uses these political circumstances as a starting point fro which to explore the ‘narrative of destruction behind Western capitalist society’.

Angelo paints the building
Angelo paints the building

The eerie scene of Oil Stick Work evolves as an animated ‘version’ of a person named Angelo Martinez is seen arriving for work every day at dawn, and tootles off home again at sunset. 

In an artistic meta-twist, Angelo’s ‘job’ is to paint an exact and perfect one metre square of the grain silo using an artist’s oil stick. Over the course of the 30-year period of the work, Angelo will slowly paint the entire building, forming a dark silhouette in the virtual landscape.

Angelo paints the building
The work by John Gerrard

The figure of little conscientious Angelo looks to create a stark juxtaposition to the suited city-boys that commute to and from Canary Wharf station, with their stocks, shares and bonuses. ‘The work offers a metaphorical departure into landscape that is a reminder of the ‘realities’ of the activity above-ground, says Art on the Underground.

Next week, Angelo will be one step close to completing his 30-year Odyssey: he will complete the first wall. At dawn on 21 December, he will start a new wall.

To watch a video of the installation, click here.

Oil Stick Work (Angelo Martinez / Richfield, Kansas) 2008 is on display in the ticket hall of Canary Wharf underground station. The new wall will begin at dawn on 21 December.

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