from House & Garden— words by Emily Tobin
The ultimate guide to being affordable art
They are ever present in literature, and as functional in our day-to-day lives as they are vivid in our imaginations - maps are everywhere. For several thousand years, they have plotted celestial bodies in the night sky, charted paths for transporting silks and spices, and detailed routes to guide travellers. But far from being just a tool for navigation, maps are as much a visual art form as a device designed to take us from A to B. They are intimately bound up with ideas of status and power and, as such, map-makers do not simply represent the world: they construct it out of the ideas of their age. Two artists who explore this concept are Adam Dant and Elisabeth Lecourt.
London is reimagined as a cross-sectioned cadaver, a voracious organism in constant motion. The brain is Westminster, the liver is Fleet Street, the heart St Paul's, the stomach in the City, and poor old Whitechapel, quite literally, comes up at the rear.
Adam Dant - artist, printmaker and pamphleteer - has been dubbed 'the Hogarth of Hoxton'. He creates dense cartographical drawings packed with visual puns, imagined terrains and subliminal messages. Geographical accuracy is subverted in favour of fantasy. One such project is The Library of Dr London, a series of maps depicting global cities as mad amalgams of fact and fiction. These vast ink drawings resemble double-page plates from hefty tomes, extracted from Dr London's mythical archive.
A map of Tokyo's metro system is an entwined jumble of naked figures - a modern take on Shunga woodblocks. Ferries float across the Bosphorus in The Nerves of Istanbul, a map based on a medieval medical diagram. And four flayed figures depict the Manhattan districts: vessel, entrails, organs and ribs.
Each of the maps that Adam creates is scrupulously researched before he sets pen to paper; they are reminiscent of satirical works by eighteenth-century artists James Gillray and Robert Dighton, gently poking fun at British culture.
Several miles south of Shoreditch, the Clapham studio of French artist Elisabeth Lecourt exhibits a similar preoccupation with cartography. Stashed away in a set of bright yellow drawers are copies of some of her favourite maps: there is an 1851 aerial view of London taken from a hot-air balloon in which north and south are reversed; a geological map of the UK illustrates the island's 'faults, folds, foliations and lineations' in pastel shades; and a reproduction of a 1585 map charts Francis Drake's voyage to Santo Domingo among fleets of ships and oversize turtles.
Many years ago, Elisabeth's cousin was visiting her in London and left behind a large A to Z. Soon after, Elisabeth came across a story in the newspaper of a man sent to prison, leaving behind his young daughter. These two seemingly disparate occurrences merged in Elisabeth's mind and she crafted a dress out of the map - with Wormwood Scrubs located on the bodice, where the heart should be. This was her portrait of the girl and the first of her ongoing Les Robes Géographiques series.
Read the full article here : http://www.houseandgarden.co.uk/article/creative-cartography