I had planned to venture further afield for this post but, somewhat typically, I have been struck by the lurgy so I decided to stay closer to home. However, the fact I don’t have to go far to reach Fenton House does not diminish what a great place it is. But hurry! The exhibition ends tomorrow so you don’t have long.
Fenton House, Hampstead. Image via the National Trust photo library, www.nationaltrust.org.uk.
Fenton House is perched atop the hill in Hampstead, hidden in the old winding lanes where it’s easy to get lost, and I frequently do. A 17th century merchant’s house, it’s filled with a treasure trove of fine furnishings, porcelain and art. For the month of October, it has also housed a wonderful selection of Stephen Walter’s London Series.
I have known Stephen for a number of years now and I’m a huge fan of his work, I even have some myself. The Island: London Series was first published in 2008 and has enjoyed much acclaim ever since. It’s impossible not to love these maps and discover Stephen’s incredible and witty detail whilst spotting your own road or familiar landmarks.
Stephen Walter, The Island, 2008. Image courtesy of the artist and via www.tagfinearts.com.
Stephen was inspired by the unfolding drama of city life, tracing its dynamic history. His maps of London combine personal insights, local knowledge and research, bringing together stories, legends, histories and stereotypes; they are ultimately a celebration of place. Under the guise of traditional techniques, his work reveals a myriad of words and symbols that merge older notions of Romanticism with the intricacies and contradictions of our modern world.
Stephen Walter, detail of The Island, 2008. Image courtesy of the artist and via www.tagfinearts.com.
Though geographically accurate, the maps have their own unique identities fashioned by Stephen’s idiosyncratic semiotics, which are juxtaposed with the familiar everyday signage of cartography and public spaces. Each of his drawings is another world, full of fine detail, created through the self-enforced processes of re-representation and repetition.
Stephen Walter, detail of Camden showing Hampstead, 2008. Image courtesy of the artist and via www.tagfinearts.com.
It is Stephen’s lucid combination of diverse source material and his accurate re-mapping of our city that is so compelling. Every time I look at one of these maps, I spot something new. Displayed on the staircase, at this distinctive National Trust property, the maps sit beautifully. You can explore the whole of London in the time it takes to climb the stairs.
Stephen Walter’s maps at Fenton House. Own photograph.
Stephen is currently working on a commission for the London Transport Museum to create a map of the City’s underground systems, which will be released in 2012. I saw this work in progress a couple of weeks ago and it’s absolutely stunning. If possible, each of Stephen’s works is more exciting than the last. There’s always something amazing – a new place to explore, a new theme to play with.
Stephen at work. Image courtesy of Lars Borges.
Affordable Art Fair ticket holders will be offered 2-for-1 entry to Fenton House and 2 Willow Road. NT members (with valid membership cards) will receive 2-for-1 entry into the AAF fair.