Category Archives: Art galleries

Mapping the City Exhibition at Somerset House

mapping the city exhibition at somerset house

Shepard Fairey, Berlin Tower

A couple of weeks ago I headed to Somerset House on a Saturday afternoon. Somerset House is one of my favourite London spaces; I love the neo-classical building, the fountains in the courtyard and the range of exhibitions.

That said, the last time I went to Somerset House was in August 2013. I managed to squeeze in three exhibitions that day: Blumenfeld Studio: New York 1941 – 1960; Miles Aldridge: I Only Want You to Love Me and Nicholas Hawksmoor: Methodical Imaginings. I vowed to go back more often so here we finally are, just a short eighteen months later, for the Mapping the City exhibition.

Mapping the City exhibition at Somerset House

Mapping the City at Somerset House Swoon Bangkok

Swoon, Bangkok

50 emerging and established artists have created cartographic representations of cities for the Mapping the City exhibition at Somerset House. All artwork has been created by graffiti and street artists, and themes range from the biographical (Spok’s I Need an Extra 25 Years of Youth) and figural (Sixe Paredes’ Barcelona) to the conceptual (Filippo Minelli’s Nowhere Forever) and the fantastical (Will Sweeney’s Cabott Square, Canary Wharf).

“If you look at your city from a different angle, you start loving it in a new way. You realise that the city is not only about the obvious. Its about the things out of our regular focus, usually somewhere on top or in a corner, somewhere hiding in plain sight”


Mapping the City at Somerset House Jurne Covalence

Jurne, Covalence

The usual major world city suspects get their five minutes of fame, but I found myself naturally gravitating towards maps that represented London and American cities. This certainly had more to do with my long-term interest in American cities and the fact that I like London so much I write a blog about it, and isn’t a reflection on the artwork on show.

I was particularly taken by Cleon Peterson’s The Weak and the Powerful and The Return which address the American inner city. I’m often drawn to dystopian images and these subverted the American Dream in an original manner.

On the other side of the American spectrum I loved Overcast Angeles by Augustine Kofie, whose soft colour palette and ephemeral style represented the global image of Los Angeles perfectly.

Augustine Kofie Overcast Angeles

Augustine Kofie, Overcast Angeles

As for London, two representations stood out to me. Tim Head’s biographical Forty Five takes you on a car journey through the streets of London. I’m rarely in a car in the city but when I am, usually at night, there is something special about seeing the city from a different viewpoint. The eco-warrior in me would love nothing more that to see the city turn of lights at night, but I can’t deny the atmosphere they create.

The second London map I loved was Cabott Square, Canary Wharf by Will Sweeney. I’ve always disliked Canary Wharf; there’s a bitter chill, the architecture is sterile and I find the area soulless. This representation, by ink and pencil on paper, warrants close inspection. There are a number of surreal elements that have replaced the ‘quotidian grind of the area’; in it’s place there’s the Canary Wharf that Sweeney would like, a ‘sometimes beautiful, sometimes blood-curling place of possibility’.

Your last chance to catch the exhibition is Sunday, so hurry on down.

Mapping the City
Somerset House
Until 15 February 2015
Free admission

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Tate Britain

Tate Britain collection

Tate Britain is the oldest gallery in the Tate network of galleries, which also includes Tate Liverpool, Tate St Ives and the Tate Modern.

Tate Britain façade

Tate Britain side entrance

Located on Millbank and on the site of the former Millbank prison, Tate Britain is also next to Chelsea College of Arts which must be pretty inspiring for students!

Tate Britain has a huge collection of art from the 1500s onwards. There are lots of rooms and something for everyone to enjoy. My interests lie in modern and contemporary art but I really enjoyed spending time at the Turner collection on my last visit. The Turner Bequest (all his works found in his studio after he died in the mid 1800s) makes up the majority of the display in the Clore Gallery, and it reminded me just how special I find his oil paintings.

What I enjoyed most about my visit was two of the BP Spotlight exhibitions currently on. They share the same room and look at Sylvia Pankhurst and Women at Work. I left Sylvia Pankhurst with the battle for rights for women in my mind, to be swiftly reminded by Women at Work that rights don’t always equal equality.

Sylvia Pankhurst was the daughter of Emmeline Pankhurst and known to me only as a campaigner for women’s rights. I had no idea that she was an artist too, having trained at Manchester Municipal School of Art and the Royal College of Art. She put her artistic talent to good use with the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), designing their banners, badges and flyers. The exhibition also features paintings from her time documenting the women workers of England.

Women and Work took us forward several decades to the 1970s and displays details from an investigation of women at work by Margaret Harrison, Kay Hunt and Mary Kelly. Timed to coincide with the Equal Pay Act that passed in 1970, they studied women working in a factory in Bermondsey, South London. The exhibition demonstrates the divide between men and women in the workplace in the 1970s, and offers a glimpse into a woman’s daily routine at that time.

Tate Britain gallery

Tate Britain roof

After browsing some other rooms I later found myself in Martin Creed’s Work No. 227: The lights going on and off. Which is pretty much what it says on the tin. A large empty room / ‘space’ is filled with light for five seconds before darkness descends. And repeat.

According to the official Tate description, “In exploiting the existing light fittings of the gallery space, Creed creates a new and unexpected effect”. Go experience for yourself, or you can watch my short video:

Work No. 227: The lights going on and off by Martin Creed

Work No. 227: The lights going on and off

If you’ve never been before it’s worth visiting Tate Britain. If that’s not enough free art for you, catch the riverboat up the Thames to the Tate Modern afterwards. We’re very lucky to have free access to these amazing places but sometimes we need a reminder to visit them!