London Subterranea, 2012

London Subterranea, 2012

Archival inkjet and screen print, and gold acrylic on paper, 130 x 163 cm. Edition of 50

LONDON-SUBTERRANEA,-2012




London Subterranea – Stephen Walter

Archival inkjet and screen print, and gold acrylic on paper, 130 x 163 cm. Edition of 50

London is one of the greatest palimpsests of our time. Parts of the Roman city lie 30 feet below street level and recent excavations go deeper still. The subterranean city is a patchwork of things and of many layers.

What has been carved out down ‘below’ is a ripe subject for intrigue, speculation and discovery. London Subterranea aims to shine a light on this clandestine infrastructure and it presents perhaps the first comprehensive map, open to the public, which places so many of its features alongside each other.

It geographically tracks the routes of London’s Lost Rivers, its main sewers, the tube network and it’s ‘ghost’ stations including the Crossrail project. It also pinpoints archeological finds, ruins, known plague pits, secret governmental tunnels, the Mail Rail and the Water Ring Main tunnels. Epithets to the ‘underworld’ of crime, and the scenes of notable killings such as the acid-bath murders get a look in. So too does the site of the infamous Tyburn Tree and its many buried corpses that still lie in its wake undiscovered.

London Subterranea, also reveals a network that echoes the patterns of the city’s ground level geography. It includes details of infrastructures that are highly regulated and controlled. However, the sheer incomprehensibility of the subject, and the map’s hand-drawn nature leads the work into a state of eligibility, merging it with the legends that are formed from – what exists ‘below’. The map now plays its part in the subcultures of urban exploration and it seeks to ultimately be an artifact, and a fuel base for those interested in finding out more.

In 2010 The London Transport Museum commissioned me to produce this map. I decided to create a sister piece to The Island, my map of London completed in 2008, this time shining a light on the clandestine world of what lies underground.