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Big Ben - international artist Sarah Morris’s new work at Gloucester Road Tube station

Date uploaded: May 23, 2012

Big Ben counts down in international artist Sarah Morris’s dramatic new work at Gloucester Road Tube station

In 2012, for their twelfth commission for Gloucester Road Tube Station, Art on the Underground has invited internationally renowned artist Sarah Morris to create an epic artwork for the eighteen arches extending the length of a disused platform. As trains enter the station, viewers of Morris’s work will experience an evolving spectrum of geometry and colour, that unites in a striking and abstract reflection on London’s past and future. The artwork will be on display from mid-June.

Recognised for her brightly coloured complex paintings and installations that distill, decode and play off the architecture and psychology of urban environments, Sarah Morris’s commission for Gloucester Road derives from a painting of Big Ben she created for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. As an iconic marker of the capital’s history and architecture, as well as a symbol of movement and time, Morris’s expression of Big Ben through line and colour connects both the Underground and the 2012 Games. Morris’s almost filmic treatment of Gloucester Road Station in Big Ben [2012], conceives London as a complex grid of non-linear narratives, brought together by time as people pass through public space. 

Morris’s longstanding practice employs the visceral properties of colour as well as fictional cinematic space produced through the use of real situations in her films.  The Olympics and the idea of spectacle are represented in past films such as Beijing (2008) and 1972 (2008), and subway stations have featured in works such as her seminal film Midtown (1998), and others including Miami (2002), Los Angeles (2004) and Chicago (2011).

Sarah Morris, artist said, “This is the first series of images where I’ve treated London as a subject, as a starting point. Stripped bare, Big Ben [2012] is a streamlined image of time, and ironically anti-authoritarian: no-one can control the politics of the future. I wanted to create a spectrum of colour that parallels the movement in and out of Gloucester Road station, an image of arrival and departure.”

Since the mid-1990s, Sarah Morris has been making complex abstract paintings and films. She began her career making graphic paintings that adapted the dramatic, emotive language used in newspaper and advertising tag lines. Her city-based paintings employ vividly coloured household gloss on grid-marked canvases that reference architectural motifs, signs or urban vistas reflecting the unique dynamic of a place.  In her films, Morris examines both the surface of a city – its architecture and geography – and the ‘interior’ psychology of its inhabitants and key players. She appropriates different kinds of cinematography, from documentary recording to seemingly set-up narrative scenarios.

Louise Coysh, Curator for Art on the Underground, said: “We’re delighted to commission Sarah Morris as the twelfth internationally acclaimed artist at our flagship site.  Her work resonates very strongly not only with London’s architecture and transport infrastructure, but most especially with the energy and excitement in the capital during 2012.”

The Gloucester Road Commissions provide invited artists with the opportunity to create ambitious, temporary new work in response to Art on the Underground’s flagship site and its context, which has over one million visitors each month. 

Since the inaugural exhibition by Cindy Sherman in 2003, there have been eleven artists’ projects presented so far, including significant new works by Chiho Aoshima, David Batchelor, Brian Griffiths, Beatriz Milhazes and Mark Titchner.

From 21 June – 21 September, a limited edition print of Sarah Morris’s original Big Ben [2012] work will be on display at Tate Britain; this Paralympic poster is one of twelve officially commissioned posters for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.  The official posters of the Games are a unique celebration of 100 years of the meeting of art and sport, and a body of iconic work that has been created over the last century. In collaboration with the London 2012 Festival, Art on the Underground is proud to present the twelve official London 2012 Games poster artworks in exhibitions at Southwark and Piccadilly Underground stations, until December 2012.

Visit art.tfl.gov.uk/projects/detail/8083/

Sarah Morris, Big Ben [2012], detail

Sarah Morris, Big Ben [2012], detail