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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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