England has long been a center of mind-bending wonders. From his connection to the story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, For its bohemian neighborhoods, its capital has quirky sights on almost every corner.
But deep beneath London’s byways, there are tunnels with their own fascinating histories and mysteries. The city’s underground subway system has many interesting objects.
Some of these works of art are so hidden in plain sight that they go unnoticed by the casual traveler. One such piece is an installation spanning 270 stations. The London Underground ‘Labyrinth’ is a series of drawings that commemorate the daily journey of the city and the community woven along it.
about the artist
The “Labyrinth” was commissioned by Art Underground to mark the 150th anniversary of the tube. On January 9, 2013, the metro unveiled the big project to celebrate the network’s history and influence on the country. Its 270 stations were each decorated with a one-of-a-kind work of art.
The creator, Mark Wellinger, has already earned himself a reputation as one of the most prominent contemporary artists in the UK. Born in 1959, gained fame for his works on British society. He would be nominated and eventually win the Turner Prize (one of the highest honors available to English artists). In addition, his works will find homes in well-known institutions such as the Tate Gallery in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
The project was a personal one for Wallinger, as his childhood was heavily influenced by his travels. His home town of Chigwell is well connected to the underground via the central line. As a result, the artwork aims to connect each traveler with their own journey, as they either did as they are or grew up.
London Maze by Mark Wellinger, London Underground, UK
The London Labyrinth
The mazes are a reflection of the London Underground. Each is a unique design, handcrafted and installed across over 240 miles of tracks. The 270 works of art resemble spirals in nature (such as shells and galaxies) as well as in the history of England (such as Stonehenge). Their shape and size are also a reference to the Tube’s logo, which emphasizes its entrances for travelers.
They are unassuming, with simple black lines curling around a panel of white enamel. However, they offer a unique way to appreciate your journey through London and beyond.
The concept behind the art installation is also inspired by the Tube. Their modest appearance is meant to illustrate how the massive transportation network is simplified and embedded in the unconscious mind of its passengers.
In the subway, each person follows a unique path. But in the end, everyone reaches their destination. The image of the maze is an illustration of this. Through the twists and turns of the painting, each rider chooses their thread to follow until they explore its interior and eventually find their way out again. By providing a space to reflect on their journey, Wallinger’s mazes encourage passengers to examine their physical and mental progress throughout the London Underground.
A train moves in an underground station in London, UK
How to see the works
As the mazes are spread across every station on the London Underground, they make a great detour. The subway is usually the cheapest, and often the most convenient way to get around the city and suburbs. Some famous landmarks close to metro stations include the British Museum, Kensington Palace and the Royal Albert Hall. As a result, visitors to the capital can easily incorporate some of the artwork into their itinerary.
A popular competition is to visit all London Underground stations as quickly as possible. Dubbed the “Subway Challenge,” it saw a handful of people fall off at each of its 270 stations (although that number varies depending on how many are open at the time). The mazes are a direct reference to the challenge. Each one bears a handwritten number, ordered in the same way as the route taken by a former record team.
The 270 pieces are each located in different areas of their stations (on their exterior, around their ticket counters, or hanging on a modest wall). It is difficult to recognize them in the bustle of the stations. So, the key is to keep your eyes open. Like the London Underground, the real treasure lies in the journey.
Unfortunately, London is also a hotspot for pickpockets. The metro can be dangerous for unprepared tourists. Therefore, when stopping to admire the works, it is better to be on guard.
- tips: Try to make sure you are out of the crowd’s way. Keep your bags tucked near your hands. Above all, keep a close eye on your phone and keep it secure. These precautions will help prevent potential theft, as well as items being lost or left behind.
All in all, London’s Underground Dungeons are a fascinating sight to see before you set off on your next adventure.