The Art of Mapping at the Air Gallery in Mayfair is the latest exhibition to take mapping as its inspiration. It consists of 34 contemporary works that are based on maps, some more loosely than others. Among those familiar to map freaks will be Grayson Perry’s Map of Nowhere.
Maps of cities dominate (perhaps a little too much), and London is heavily featured. Prominent is Simon Patterson’s The Great Bear, perhaps the first map to mash-up Beck’s Tube map and deserving of praising for that, even if I’ve always found the Bear map itself rather dull.
I was, however, fascinated by Jeremy Wood’s My Ghost, which used GPS to map nine years of movement around London, creating a spidery thread that created an approximate outline of the city’s streets.
It reminded me of a similar project undertaken by London cab driver Richard Cudlip. Similarly, I liked Rob Good’s Two Cities, which reproduced a stencil of the south-east of England shorn of anything manmade, and mounted powerfully on stainless steel.
There was something in both these maps about landscape and the way humans interact with it which is best expressed through contemporary art. Many of the maps seemed to promote this similar sense of alienation with the city, making it a stark contrast to the Museum of London’s recent Londonist-inspired exhibition, which emphasised the way areas of a city can become as familiar to us as our own bodies.
Stanley Donwood’s London was a more colourful and less ambitious version of The Island, emphasising that where Patterson’s Great Bear introduced a concept others could better, Walter has created something that will probably never be matched.
The last London map was Nigel Peake’s XXXIV Crossings, which was a lovely stylised look at London’s various river crossings, overlapping chaotically. Nigel has created a lovely book on a similar theme, featuring London’s bridges drawn in various ways.
Away from London, I also loved Susan Stockwell’s Jerusalem, which reconstructed a map of the British Isles out of recycled computer components, and Emma Johnson’s Dislocation: Time And Place, for which she had taken a pair of scissors to a map, removing streets and parks and then reconstructed it in an overlapping 3D effect, like a pop-up plate of paper spaghetti.
The Art of Mapping, curated by TAG Fine Art, is at Air Gallery on Dover Street until Sat November 26.