Who'd have thought Reading could cause such a stir. At the revelation that TfL's latest tube map would feature the elysian realms of Reading, Slough, Taplow and Iver, the online tube-lovin' community collectively wet itself with excitement — us included. A further dribble of elation came from TfL's decision to add in connections for river services. What are you trying to DO to us, TfL?
All of which rather throws shade on the December 2019 edition pocket map cover — and its artist, Bedwyr Williams. So what exactly are those two thick-rimmed bespectacled faces — tube lines driven through their temples and brains — all about? Er, Brexit, basically. What isn't.
If you thought the artsy pair looked like they were going through some kind of anxiety-inducing drama, you're not wrong. The artwork — which is also on posters dotted around the network — is called Morden (despite not featuring the Northern line). According to the Welsh artist's PR, the name is "an apt metaphor, signalling the end of the Northern line and a nation on edge individually, collectively, politically and socially." Yikes. (Also: does that mean the Northern line extension is a metaphor for a Brexit extension? We're already a bit lost.)
The use of the (red) Central line and the (blue) Piccadilly line on a white background invokes the Union Flag — which is joyfully head-fucking our two hipster heroes, their brains are already the consistency of PVA glue, thanks to three and a half very special years of British politics. We're unsure what the (grey) Jubilee line is doing here; perhaps it represents the political/social/moral grey area which the UK still finds itself in — or perhaps it's inspired by the hair/face colour/morality of previous PM, Theresa May.
The 31st Art of the Underground artwork is, however, spiked with some kind of optimism. Says Eleanor Pinfield, Head of Art on the Underground:
Williams has created a comedic perspective on the times we live in. [Our] series of commissions explores what it means to be 'on edge' and asks how artists can play a role in developing ideas of togetherness and belonging. Using recognisable iconography of the tube map with figures confused by life and their place in it, Williams's work humorously questions who belongs in the city.
Can the next pocket map's theme PLEASE be unicorns.