On 18 May 2023, Art on the Underground will present Pond Life: Albertopolis and the Lily, a highly ambitious new artwork by Monster Chetwynd at Gloucester Road Tube station, on view until May 2024.
On 18 May 2023, Art on the Underground will present Pond Life: Albertopolis and the Lily, a highly ambitious new artwork by Monster Chetwynd at Gloucester Road Tube station, on view until May 2024. Chetwynd’s sculptural intervention, designed to span the 80-metre disused platform, features three dimensional creatures including frogs, salamanders and tortoises, and is
accompanied by a new film. Pond Life: Albertopolis and the Lily takes its inspiration from the engineering feat of the Crystal Palace, and the incredible story of the gardener-turned-architect, Joseph Paxton, who based the Crystal Palace’s radical design on the giant Amazonian water lily. Drawing inspiration from the fractal network of veins and flexible cross ribs of the water lily’s huge leaf, he created the building’s now iconic modular design.
Monster Chetwynd (born 1973, formerly known as Spartacus Chetwynd and Marvin Gaye Chetwynd) is a British artist known for her joyous and irreverent artworks. She often combines historic references, theatrical performances, and pop culture to tell stories that reflect on contemporary society and morality. Chetwynd works with a troupe of friends and family who collectively perform, participate, and contribute to her work, giving it an unpredictable momentum and spirited energy.
Pond Life: Albertopolis and the Lily unlocks the linked origin stories of Gloucester Road Tube station and the vast programme of Victorian-era cultural redevelopment that followed the Great Exhibition of 1851, which was housed in the Crystal Palace. Six million people, equivalent to a third of the entire population of the UK at the time, visited the Great Exhibition and revenue from tickets provided capital for the construction of the Natural History Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum and the Science Museum, situated along Exhibition Road. Together, these new developments created a cultural destination known as ‘Albertopolis’, serviced by the two new Tube stations of South Kensington and Gloucester Road, which opened in 1868.
Through her research into Gloucester Road Tube station and the surrounding area, Monster Chetwynd became fascinated by Joseph Paxton as a resourceful and pioneering figure. Her new work pays tribute to his revolutionary design and its genesis from the natural world, but it also unpicks the political implications of this complex history and how Paxton’s developments in engineering and architecture are intrinsically linked to their Victorian context.
At Gloucester Road Tube station, Chetwynd creates a series of five 4-metre diameter disc-shaped sculptures along the length of a disused platform. Each sculpture is populated with imaginary creatures – frogs, salamanders, tortoises and dragonfly larvae – that appear to be constructing sections of the Crystal Palace. They show the underwater life of the submerged lily pads, their spiny network of veins playing host to the industrious wildlife. Rather than stepping down into the tunnels of the London Underground it is as if the viewer has stepped beneath the surface of the water, into a subterranean simulation of the Amazon. A freestanding salamander, holding an Amazonian lily pad as a parasol, is a humorous, anthropomorphic addition to this scene of amphibian industry. The sculptures reference the commemorative coins, medallions and souvenirs that were created to commemorate the Great Exhibition, as well as the array of terracotta animal
sculptures that decorate the exterior walls and vaulted galleries of the Natural History Museum.
Monster Chetwynd, artist, said: “I love travelling by public transport. I have always loved the London Underground. I remember watching the film 'Babylon' (1980) as a teenager and recognising that I am not alone in celebrating the Tube. I find the deep tunnels that allow fast journeys, cathartic. I have had many adventures on the Underground. I am a fan of John Betjemans's Metroland. I feel oddly proud that the London Underground is one of the earliest ever built. I knew this when I was growing up in London but I didn't know the local history of Gloucester Road and South Ken Tube stations. I only read this story recently when I was invited to make an artwork for Gloucester Road Tube station. The local history is surprising and very inspiring. As a result, instead of making one piece of work in response, I have made two. I have made a sculpture to be on display on the disused platform. Secondly, I have made a film to connect people to the reasons behind the sculpture. The process of making these two works has been epic in my opinion! By researching events that are 'Victorian' I have opened the lid into how the British Empire is so close to our reality even when we don't realise it is and by lifting this lid I have learnt a lot. I would like to say I have been inspired by aspects of engineering history and the commission is a result of this. The greater part of the political and economic context has also
influenced me. The poetic connection between a Lily from the Amazon (that smells of pineapple and entraps beetles in its pink interior overnight) and the arches and rumbling tunnels of Gloucester Road, this connection needs to be brought forward. How history is re-examined and allowed to be accessible is also in need of discussion. The Art on the Underground commission has allowed this opportunity. I am the artist who volunteered to lift the lid. I have created an investigative character named 'The Fact Hungry Witch'. The witch is useful in a naive quest to know everything, maybe as dedicated as Denis Diderot (1713). Let's wait and see!"
Image :Monster Chetwynd, Free Energy, 2021 [still] HD-Video © Monster Chetwynd, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ,
ArtDependence Magazine is an international magazine covering all spheres of contemporary art, as well as modern and classical art.
ArtDependence features the latest art news, highlighting interviews with today’s most influential artists, galleries, curators, collectors, fair directors and individuals at the axis of the arts.
The magazine also covers series of articles and reviews on critical art events, new publications and other foremost happenings in the art world.
If you would like to submit events or editorial content to ArtDependence Magazine, please feel free to reach the magazine via the contact page.