"Untitled (NZME #4)" Oil on Canvas 169x107cm

Photos from demonstration

"The Houses of Parliament by Night" (After Gustave Doré), pencil on paper 8x18,4 cm


In collaboration with Tate Modern, London, 2010

123 pencil drawings of London made in 2008 and 2009 after the titles and sizes of images in

"London -A Pilgrimage" (1872) by Gustave Doré and Blanchard Jerrold

Artist talk (with Ian Sinclair) and guided walks in the South Bank area.

To celebrate the beginning of the Transforming Tate Modern building project, Swedish artist Martin Karlsson has created a new artwork for the 100 metre hoarding that encloses the construction site.

Karlsson’s London – An Imagery is a portrait of the city that focuses on certain urban archetypes deemed to represent London’s essential character. It takes as its starting point Gustave Doré and Blanchard Jerrold’s 1872 publication London: A Pilgrimage. Doré’s fantastical gothic etchings and Jerrold’s prose create a narrative of life in the city that, in the mid-nineteenth century, was the powerhouse of the world’s economy. At the core of Victorian London’s success was an extraordinary level of industrial and commercial innovation, which was accompanied by horrific poverty in its extensive slums. The coexistence and layering of these social, economic and geographical spaces created a spectacle quite unlike any city the world had seen. Dickens was London’s great literary chronicler, but Jerrold and Doré’s book gave visual representation to its magnificence and squalor.

Walking the routes and visiting the locations depicted by Doré and Jerrold, Karlsson has updated their portrait of the city and its inhabitants, highlighting the ways in which architecture, characters and patterns of urban life have endured or changed in contemporary London. The scenes of Doré’s etchings have been re-presented, keeping the original titles but this time rendered in pencil. For this hoarding Karlsson, like Doré, has used the most advanced printing technology available to present this narrative. Many of the archetypes and spaces are still recognisable, but contexts have changed. Grand markets that bustled with trade are now shopping piazzas; chaotic thoroughfares with a jumble of horses, carriages and barrows remain equally gridlocked with orderly lines of cars and buses; labyrinthine alleys that teemed with bodies are now depopulated straight lines cutting between glass and steel architecture.

Karlsson developed the project during an artist residency in London, and the narrative sequence of the hoarding is the result of a collaboration with the Tate Modern curator. In keeping with the Victorian predilection for classification of knowledge and experience, the drawings have been arranged into four categories: landmarks, public life, trade and leisure. As with any classificatory endeavour, there is slippage between these groupings, through which the sequence of drawings become a cryptogram of modern life. Decoding the totality of life in the city is further complicated by Karlsson’s perspective on contemporary London, which is seen through a lens 140 years old. Karlsson’s engagement is as much with the historical chasm that exists between then and now, and the spaces depicted, as it is about finding the continuities that have cut across history.

Ben Borthwick, Tate Modern, 2010

Read more

"Asleep under the Stars" (After Gustave Doré), pencil on paper 9,4x17 cm, 2008-2009

"The Workmen's Train" (After Gustave Doré), pencil on paper 10x17 cm, 2008-2009

"Bishopsgate Street" (After Gustave Doré), pencil on paper 23,8x19,2 cm, 2008-2009

Map over London

Installation view, Tate Modern, London 2010

Installation view, Acme Project Space, London 2009

Inspiration: "London A Pilgrimage" by Gustave Doré and Blanchard Jerrold (1872)

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