diamond geezer

 Thursday, February 23, 2017

Pioneering Scottish pop-artist Eduardo Paolozzi, who died 12 years ago, is having a bit of a renaissance in the capital at the moment. Not only has an exhibition of his works just opened at the Whitechapel Gallery, but Art on the Underground have just brought out a map showing where some of his finest London works can be seen. These two facts may be related.

Let's start on the tube. In line with other Art on the Underground projects, the Eduardo Paolozzi Map is a deftly-produced, full colour affair, packed with informative detail. More booklet than map, it has 24 pages (or some other another number between 25 and 28 if you're the more tedious kind of pedant), and can be picked up for free at Underground stations across the network. That's by no means all Underground stations, indeed you may have to undertake a lengthy hunt, but I found mine at Liverpool Street, and there were also copies (as will turn out to be relevant) at Pimlico.

As well as a decent biography, the booklet features a fold-out Art Map with stylised tube lines showing the whereabouts of several of Paolozzi's works. Pride of place, as far as the Underground is concerned, goes to the newly restored mosaics at Tottenham Court Road station. Eduardo was responsible for the colourful mosaics which decorate the passages and platforms, a considerable undertaking in its time, with the last tile stuck down in 1986. It's fair to say that TfL lost the media war during the recent station upgrade when it was revealed that the arches above the top of the escalators would have to be demolished, and bare concrete walls then greeted passengers elsewhere at the station for a number of years. But replacement and restoration is now complete, indeed sparklingly so, and the map delights in explaining how much effort was put into making everything just right. [22min video]

One other featured artwork is on station property, although National Rail this time, outdoors. This is 'Piscator', a chink of cast iron on the forecourt of Euston station, which you'll have had to negotiate round if you've ever walked from there to Euston Square. A bit further down the road, this time on the forecourt of the British Library, is Paolozzi's bronze of 'Newton After Blake', a pensive twiddling form seen bending over through the entrance gate. As for the work supposedly at Kew Gardens station, that's actually inside the Gardens and will cost you £16 for a peek (plus the opportunity to enjoy innumerable pretty plants).

If you've been down to the new Design Museum you'll have seen 'Head of Invention', a half-cocked face cut with grooves and slices, peering uncomfortably as you cross the external piazza. You're less likely to have spotted 'Vulcan', because that's outside a restaurant on the dockside at the northern end of the cablecar at Royal Victoria. It's also part of the meridian-based artwalk project The Line, who must be chuffed at one of their curated sculptures getting a mention. But I've chosen to visit artwork number six on the map, because that's the one I hadn't been aware of before.

This is the Pimlico Cooling Tower, which is in Pimlico, and is indeed a cooling tower. Paolozzi was asked to make something interesting out of the ventilation shaft for a new underground car park, so he came up with this silvery robotic sheath perched on a bronze plinth. The structure uses pipes for arms, and the four panels on the lower block have been raised to create cogs, wheels, chains and even butterflies, in a characteristically futuristic mishmash. The tower lurks in a small piazza off Bessborough Street, at the top of the ramp up from the station, and very much the kind of location where employees from neighbouring buildings nip out for a fag. A couple of these buildings have more security cameras than seems truly necessary, which adds to the dystopian feel, but it turns out one of them is the HQ of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Service, which helps explain why.

As for the major retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery, this opened last week, and covers the full range of the artist's work from collages to fractured heads, and from textiles to animated films. It's also £13.50 to get in (or proportionally less if you can screw up your face at the offer of Gift Aid). Cheapskate visitors to the gallery will find there are three doorways where they can squint in and see a little of what everyone else is looking at, although that's obviously not optimal and may earn you some disapproving looks. Paid-up or not, don't miss the corridor round the back of Gallery 2 where a selection of period magazine articles and exhibition guides are on display, and open for your scrutiny.

Or simply track down an Art On The Underground map and enjoy the great man's works for free (plus the cost of a tube journey to Tottenham Court Road).

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