“Art” is invading public space faster than spaces are being developed and built. From the performance artist doing a guerilla intervention on the street to the 19.1 million pound Kapoor eye sore that is currently being planned for the 2012 olympic stadium, art (whether intended or not) seems to occur just about everywhere in London. One part of me revels in it. Finally, art can occupy any space and is recognized in doing so by the public. Can you imagine what kind of license this accepted knowledge can foster in artists and how the industry can grow in leaps and bounds of innovation? The other side of me knows there is something very false about planned public art, especially projects that are attached to corporations, government spaces and initiatives. Even that spontaneous guerilla artist intervening in a public realm does not command the same amount of conceptual punch like the days of Yves Klein or Laurie Anderson. This could partly be because of art overexposure coupled with a society that has become more familiar and tolerant with contemporary art.
When I first heard that Dryden Goodwin was commissioned by the Transport for London: Art on the Underground for a new piece of work for the Jubilee Tube line, I admit that I had an immediate and involuntary “eye roll” reaction. I thought to myself, “Oh no; not another poster series or tube map cover!” (Let’s face it, there are only so many spaces that art can operate on the tube lines unless a space can be shut down for a gigantic install.) But Dryden’s commission for the Jubilee line surprised me. Though the work was still in a poster format it did occupy an online space that works amazingly well in conjunction with the printed series. Dryden's piece is humble, unobtrusive, and to a certain extent poignant. The series follows in the same vein as Goodwin’s previous work of drawing portraiture of people while taping a conversation he is having with them. The camera focuses on the act of drawing revealing the physical appearance of the subject as the audience learns more about the subject. The actual subject is never seen but only lives as a fragment of conversation and also a rendering by the Goodwin’s hand.
The satisfying thing about Linear is how accessible it is as an artwork in a public realm. Most people genuinely “get” and engage with portraiture. The work draws attention immediately through skill of rendering and the stylized mark making reminiscent of quick life drawing sketches. The work is separated into three sections. One is a large-scale reproduction of all sixty portraits in a grouping installed at Southwark and London Bridge underground stations. Another is a reproduction of the drawings transformed into advertising posters that direct people to “unlock the drawings” by going to the online site. And the last is the 60 short video clips that give a snapshot of working in one of the world's biggest and most complex transport systems. The videos are poetically bleak. As quickly as your mind begins to imagine the person behind the voice. a futile interpretation rendered by the artist appears desperately trying to capture a small essence of the person as well as a moment in time that has already slipped away.
Unlock Dryden Goodwin's portraits by visiting this link.
-- David Yu
All images courtesy the artist.
Images: Dryden Goodwin, Linear, Installation View, Art on the Underground, Transport for London, Photo by Daisy Hutchison. Dryden Goodwin, Linear, Art on the Underground, Transport for London.