Somerset House reopens new wing with Mapping The City exhibition

Somerset House’s recently renovated New Wing will showcase its first exhibition in January 2015, focused on street and graffiti art.

Swoon, Bangkok (detail) 2009-2012
Swoon, Bangkok (detail) 2009-2012

The centre is collaborating with arts organisation A(by)P to present Mapping the City, a selection of work by over 50 international artists looking at their individual interpretations of cities and urban landscapes.

The New Wing, which has been closed to the public for 150 years and has recently re-opened, will be showcasing work by artists include Shepard Fairey, Swoon and Aryz.

Mike Ballard, The Ultra Poet, 2014
Mike Ballard, The Ultra Poet, 2014

A(by)P commissioned over 40 of the cartographic artworks. 42-year-old Mike Ballard, who has been doing graffiti since the age of 13, is one of the artists featured in the exhibition. “I really liked the brief and the concept behind it,” he says.

One of his oil paintings, named “The Ultra Poet”, depicts what he calls a “non-place” – a fantasy mountain landscape scene encapsulated in a container, representing the different perceptions of settings, he says. “It’s a painting within a painting, and gives the illusion of artwork being suspended against a wall,” Ballard says. “I started thinking about spaces that aren’t a hub for anything but are by-products of other places, like the space underneath flyovers.

Shepard Fairey, Berlin Tower, 2011
Shepard Fairey, Berlin Tower, 2011

A large yellow cross disrupts the scene in the painting. “It’s meant to hold the viewer back, in that it’s unreachable and objectified,” Ballard says. “I got the idea from the grey box that appears before an image loads online – that was the origin but the interpretation is up to the viewer.”

“The exhibition is a unique take on how artists see the urban landscape,” he says. “There’s also a broad range of international view points. It sounds like it’s going to be a really interesting show.”

Chu, (Julian Pablo Manzelli), Buenos Aires, 2012
Chu, (Julian Pablo Manzelli), Buenos Aires, 2012

The exhibition will take place 22 January – 15 February 2015 at New Wing, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 1LA. Admission is free.

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