Art on the Underground

With your face jammed into someone else’s sticky armpit, interminable delays and rising travel costs, it’s not often we think about celebrating the London Underground.

One Thing Leads to Another - Everything is Connected cover
One Thing Leads to Another – Everything is Connected cover

However, two new books from Black Dog Publishing, designed by Rose Design, show that the system does have its merits –especially where its design and art history are concerned.

Central Line Series cover
Central Line Series cover

Marking the Jubilee Line’s big three-oh birthday celebrations in 2009, One Thing Leads to Another – Everything is Connected shows the work commissioned by Art on the Underground to show how our ideas about time and travel have changed sine the line came into being in 1979.

The Thames Tunnel, 1843, from One Things Leads to Another - Everything is Connected
The Thames Tunnel, 1843, from One Things Leads to Another – Everything is Connected

The other book launching this month, Central Line Series, celebrates our speedy red system, which now spaces a whopping 74 kilometres across the capital.

London Transport leaflets from 1947-8, when the Central line was extended eastwards
London Transport leaflets from 1947-8, when the Central line was extended eastwards

The Central Line opened in 1900, and artists featured in the book about the line used the theme of ‘communication’ as inspiration to create works about the line’s locations and operations.

As well as text about the line’s history, the book is packed with lovely illustrations, including posters from the Central London Railways – the line’s former incarnation – and examples of the Art on the Underground projects that have graces the line.

One such project is Michael Landy’s Acts of Kindness, which ran throughout 2011.Landy invited members of the public to share ‘acts of kindness’ they had received or witnessed, a selection of which were displayed on train carriages and within stations along the Central Line. You can read some of the cockle-warming submissions here.

Bob and Roberta Smith's artwork for Stratford Underground station
Bob and Roberta Smith’s artwork for Stratford Underground station

For the London 2012 Olympic Games, artist Bob & Roberta Smith worked with filmmaker Tim Newton on the Who is Community? project. This saw Stratford Underground station adorned with mural-like poster works depicting modern Olympic games founder Pierre de Coubertin, visually narrating a fictional romantic tale about his life. A film on the same story was also created, showing de Coubertin skipping joyously through a field with a wreath of flowers on his head.

Bob and Roberta Smith's artwork for Stratford Underground station
Bob and Roberta Smith’s artwork for Stratford Underground station

Over on the Central Line’s greyer sleeker, young sibling, the Jubilee Line, the One Thing Leads to Another book takes a similar format, drawing together past Art on the Underground projects and delineating the story of art on the line through touching anecdotes and illustrations.

Dryden Goodwin Linear, 2010 for the Jubilee line

Source: Daisy Hutchison

Dryden Goodwin Linear, 2010 for the Jubilee line

The book’s title is taken from Richard Long’s 2009 project of the same name, which saw him give away 60,000 prints to Jubilee Line passengers between 7am and 12pm on 2 and 3 June. The prints depicted the landscape of Scotland’s Cairngorm Mountains, which he had travelled on foot. It was hoped that the scene would highlight the contrast between the rugged peaks and the cityscape through which the Jubilee line travels from Stanmore to Stratford.

John Gerrard, Oil Stick Work, 2008 -  Canary Wharf Jubilee line project
John Gerrard, Oil Stick Work, 2008 – Canary Wharf Jubilee line project

One Thing Leads to Another – Everything is Connected and Central Line Series are both available now priced £12.95 published by Black Dog Publishing

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