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The Face Of London: 100 Artists Redesign The Underground’s Roundel Logo
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The Face Of London: 100 Artists Redesign The Underground’s Roundel Logo

Picture of Andrew Kingsford-Smith
Updated: 21 October 2016
With 2013 marking the 150th anniversary of the London Underground, the world’s first subway system, TFL’s Art on the Underground and Art/Books have joined forces to reimagine and explore the Tube’s iconic Roundel logo. Collecting 100 artists’ interpretations of one of the world’s most recognised symbols, Art/ Books have published these works in The Roundel: 100 Artists Remake a London Icon. We showcase ten of the best designs, all created by critically acclaimed artists and designers.
Image copyright © 2013 Polly Apfelbaum. Courtesy of Art / Books

Image copyright © 2013 Polly Apfelbaum. Courtesy of Art / Books.

Polly Apfelbaum – Rainbow Roundels

Polly Apfelbaum is a New York based artist whose work is renowned for its exploration of bright colours and the intersection of pattern and shape. In this piece, the artist has stated she was inspired by Andy Warhol’s flower images. Using a rainbow of simple colour wheel hues, Apfelbaum highlights each ‘mini-Roundel’ as an individual connected to a larger whole. The vertical lines of the piece create movement while also conjuring thoughts of the Tube’s different networks.

Image copyright © 2013 Vanessa Billy. Courtesy of Art / Books.

Image copyright © 2013 Vanessa Billy. Courtesy of Art / Books.

Vanessa Billy – Ways of Getting Around

Born in Geneva, Vanessa Billy highlights the Tube’s extraordinary feat of tunnel making in this artwork. Through the photography of an ancient tunnel, the viewer is reminded that the Underground network is made up of multiple passageways through dense rock, an extraordinary achievement in the late 19th century. The dotted line adds connotations of a blueprint, while also creating imagery reminiscent of the Roundel logo.

Image copyright © 2013 Alison Gill. Courtesy of Art / Books.

Image copyright © 2013 Alison Gill. Courtesy of Art / Books.

Alison Gill – Untitled

Exploring the unseen aspects of the Tube, Alison Gill explains that she was interested in the subterranean knot that the Underground network creates. The simple shading and lack of colour tempts the viewer’s eyes to search for Escher-like optical illusions, while the faint shadow of this malleable shape recreates a clearer image of the London icon. Gill’s artwork can be seen to reveal a Roundel that is instantly recognisable but unable to be understood.

Image copyright © 2013 Doug Fishbone. Courtesy of Art / Books.

Image copyright © 2013 Doug Fishbone. Courtesy of Art / Books.

Doug Fishbone – Untitled

With his well-known sense of humour, London based artist Doug Fishbone uses real historical events in this work. The artist draws upon the advertisement of the 2008 Royal Academy exhibition Lucas Cranach, which was banned from Underground stations because it was viewed as being ‘too racy.’ Using the Roundel to cover the nude Venus and adding a cheeky double entendre heading, Fishbone questions the censorship of art and the relationship of the Tube experience and ubiquitous advertisements.

Image copyright © 2013 Jaime Gili. Courtesy of Art / Books.

Image copyright © 2013 Jaime Gili. Courtesy of Art / Books.

Jaime Gili – A150 Anjos

Using his abstract optics-focused aesthetics, Jaime Gili attempts to push the boundaries of our recognition of the Roundel image in this work. Transforming its simple and distinguishable shape into an eruption of sharp pieces and colour, the audience is led to think of the relationship between a unified London and the diverse individuals who inhabit this mass metropolis. London based, Gili often draws upon his South American and Spanish background in his works.

Image copyright © 2013 Lothar Götz. Courtesy of Art / Books.

Image copyright © 2013 Lothar Götz. Courtesy of Art / Books.

Lothar Götz – Vision of a Roundel

Born in Günzburg, Lothar Götz now lives and works in London. Using geometric shapes and intersections, this Vision of a Roundel highlights the Tube’s connective attributes, allowing the wide Greater London to travel into the chaotic city centre. In his explanation of the work he describes a retreating journey back to the woodlands of Wanstead Park: a rejuvenating experience that enables the commuter to ‘awake refreshed to the endless surprises of London.’

Image copyright © 2013 Susan Hiller. Courtesy of Art / Books.

Image copyright © 2013 Susan Hiller. Courtesy of Art / Books.

Susan Hiller – Untitled

Susan Hiller draws upon comic book culture in this reimagining of the Roundel. Displaying the Roundel like Batman’s ‘Bat-Signal’, this icon is given the symbolic meaning of safety, security and reliability, illuminating the dark city of London. Interestingly in this image, other quintessential emblems of London such as Westminster Abbey and London Bridge are darkened and made to look dangerous, insinuating the Roundel’s superiority as an icon of this capital city.

Image copyright © 2013 Damien Roach. Courtesy of Art / Books.

Image copyright © 2013 Damien Roach. Courtesy of Art / Books.

Damien Roach – Variation #6 (Roundel)

Taking the Roundel out of its London context, Damien Roach’s artwork focuses on the concept of the Underground Tube rather than its locality. Roach explains that transport systems rewire space, transforming the perceptions and interactions between people and place. Roach uses photo manipulation to visualise this concept. Also remarkable is the fact that even without geographical context or colour, the Roundel is still clearly distinguishable.

Image copyright © 2013 Richard Wentworth. Courtesy of Art / Books.

Image copyright © 2013 Richard Wentworth. Courtesy of Art / Books.

Richard Wentworth – Chinese Whispers (Underground)

Known for his striking sculptures, Richard Wentworth is a British artist whose work redefines commonplace objects with new meaning. In this work, this seemly simple scene exudes a plethora of connotations and meanings. The tangential line on the manhole not only creates the recognisable imagery of the Roundel, but also evokes ideas of the Underground, disorder and traffic versus the relative calm of the Tube. The Chinese characters add an extra level of meaning to the Roundel’s multicultural London identity.

Image copyright © 2013 Catherine Yass. Courtesy of Art / Books.

Image copyright © 2013 Catherine Yass. Courtesy of Art / Books.

Catherine Yass – Tunnel

Catherine Yass finds the Roundel imagery in the tube itself in this artwork. Distorting the colours of the image, Yass explains the eerie sensation as the Underground trains would travel past a closed and empty station. Yass specifically chose Aldwych Station for the artwork because of her close connection with this location, and the feeling of loss she felt when it was closed due to the city’s rationalisation.

By Andrew Kingsford-Smith

Images courtesy of artists and Art/ Books Publishing.