Hand-Drawn Map Captures the Frenetic Energy of London
Any city is more than the sum of its topography, buildings, and streets. For its inhabitants and even visitors, a city is also a collection of memories and associations that you can’t see on a map. Well, at least not on most maps.
The images above are details from a new map of London drawn by Fuller (aka Gareth Wood), a British map artist. The goal, Wood says, was to capture his relationship with the city over the past 10 years. “It’s about documenting a particular time and experience,” he says. “Our existence is so inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, that in a way what I feel like I’m doing is creating an artifact, something I can leave behind. There’s a certain romanticism to it.”
Wood started making the map when he was 25. He’s now 34. During those years, he explored the city on foot and bicycle, taking tons of photos and notes, before drawing the map in black ink on archival mounting board. The original is roughly 3 by 4 feet.
The map is intricate and frenetic, filled with personal memories and social commentary. Wood thinks “psychogeography” is too stuffy a label, but his work has much in common with that tradition of random wandering and playfully attaching personal and cultural significance to places.
A question mark takes the place of hour and minute hands on Big Ben’s clock, and the Houses of Parliament are represented by a circus tent. “It’s a bit of a poke at British politics,” Wood says. A plume of dollar and pound signs rises from the landmark “Gherkin” building in the financial district, while people sleep under bridges in Shoreditch. “If you look closely, there are some obnoxious things happening in the suburbs under the street lamps,” Wood says.
For all that, it’s not meant to express any particular political point of view. “It’s not anti- anything,” Wood says. “It’s an homage to youth, when you’re staying up late, going to smoky jazz bars, still trying to find your political allegiances.” The prominent face of a young woman near the top of the map symbolizes romance.
There are more personal memories, too, some of them quite painful. Two crosses on the map represent acquaintances who died. “As a mapmaker I sort of wear my heart on my sleeve,” Wood says.
Other features are more universally recognizable, like the familiar path of the Thames, swirling and snaking its way across the city, the Northern and Central Tube lines, and a big airplane at Heathrow. “I wanted it to be accessible, but a little cryptic,” he says.
The map will be published in Mind the Map, a book coming out later this month, and it will appear later this year at an exhibit at the Royal College of Art in London. It’s not yet available to purchase, but Wood plans to eventually sell prints on his website.
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