27 January 2013

Art on the District Line

I love street art and I am upset that London has too little of it when compared to many European cities. Art in galleries is good and art in the street adds elements of surprise and contextual shock that make it exciting.

London has made efforts to fill this cultural deficit and projects like the London Elephants in 2010 are very welcome.

Also welcome is the artistic& use put to the disused platform at Gloucester Road underground station.

This is on the left-hand side when travelling east along the District Line and the first picture here was taken from inside one of those trains. The colours made such a delightful impact that I immediately decided to break my journey there on the way back from London to take a closer look.

There was a time when I passed through Gloucester Road every day but projects change so destinations change and now I am far more familiar (sadly) with Newport Station. This change of commuting patterns no doubt increased the surprise and the pleasure, though it is fair to say that one of the joys of commuting through there was the chance to spend a moment in a gallery before rattling on.

Coming back later I was on the far side of the station which meant looking at the installation across the intervening platforms.

Of course I could have crossed over to get closer but one of the important points of street art is the context and I liked being reminded that this is a busy station that just happens to have some art in it.

The installation is by Sarah Morris and, obviously I think, is based on the tower and clock-face of Big Ben.

Despite this grounding in the real world what attracted me the most was the abstract use of colour in each piece and the contrast in colours between the pieces.

The brashness also works very well in its setting of brick and darkness. The station is just a tunnel after all and the art is an interloper. I have tried to capture this in the final picture by including the station sign which, incidentally (but probably not accidentally) echoes the circle of the clock-face and the straitness of the tower.

Gloucester Road station shows what London can do when it wants to bring art in to the real world for real people to encounter. It is just a shame that it does not do it more often.

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