For the uninitiated the Tube can look like an inexplicable maze. But once you grasp Harry Beck’s iconic map, those chaotic lines form a manageable labyrinth. So goes the thinking behind London Underground’s biggest ever art commission: 270 permanent, unique artworks by Mark Wallinger soon to grace the walls of every Tube station.
The difference between a maze and a labyrinth is the latter has only one path. The crammed Tube commute may look like chaos, but all it is is millions of individuals taking daily, familiar journeys. Echoing the Tube’s ubiquitous blue and red roundels and emblazoned in the same enamel, Labyrinth’s black and white circles fit well on tiled platform walls. Their intricate brain-like patterns point towards the complex but organised network of the Underground and at each entrance is a red “You are Here” cross, an embarkation point for each passenger.
Today, 10 of the station artworks were revealed, the rest are to follow in the summer. In contributing to the rich, graphic language of the Underground, Wallinger joins an illustrious list of artists stretching back to the 1930s. He’s done the platform walls justice in 2013.