Sarah Morris has created a linear narrative artwork, Big Ben , for the eighteen arches extending the length of a disused platform at Gloucester Road Tube Station. The work is an evolving spectrum of geometry and colour, and abstract reflection on London’s past and future that relates to her paintings and installations that play with the architecture and psychology of urban environments. The commission derives from a painting, Big Ben, created for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Morris’s linear treatment of Gloucester Road Station in Big Ben , conceives London as a complex grid of non-linear narratives, brought together by time as people pass through public space. The name, Big Ben, has become synonymous with the tower, bell and clock at the Houses of Parliament, although it is specifically the name of the bell within St James Tower at Westminster. Morris’s image makes a connection with London’s history and architecture; is a symbol of movement and time, and links the Underground and 2012 Games.
“This is the first series of images where I’ve treated London as a subject, as a starting point. Stripped bare, Big Ben  is a streamlined image of time, and ironically anti-authoritarian: no-one can control the politics of the future. I wanted to create a spectrum of colour that parallels the movement in and out of Gloucester Road station, an image of arrival and departure.” Sarah Morris
Since the mid-1990s, Sarah Morris has been making complex abstract paintings and films. She began her career making graphic paintings that adapted the dramatic, emotive language used in newspaper and advertising tag lines. Her city-based paintings employ vividly coloured household gloss on grid-marked canvases that reference architectural motifs, signs or urban vistas reflecting the unique dynamic of a place. In her films, Morris examines both the surface of a city – its architecture and geography – and the ‘interior’ psychology of its inhabitants and key players. She appropriates different kinds of cinematography, from documentary recording to seemingly set-up narrative scenarios. Morris’s longstanding practice employs the visceral properties of colour as well as fictional cinematic space produced through the use of real situations in her films. The Olympics and the idea of spectacle are represented in past films such as Beijing (2008) and 1972 (2008), and subway stations have featured in works such as her seminal film Midtown (1998), and others including Miami (2002), Los Angeles (2004) and Chicago (2011).
Exhibition – from 21 June – 21 September: a limited edition print of Sarah Morris’s original Big Ben  work will be on display at Tate Britain; this Paralympic poster is one of twelve officially commissioned posters for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. In collaboration with the London 2012 Festival, Art on the Underground is showing the twelve official London 2012 Games poster artworks in exhibitions at Southwark and Piccadilly Underground stations, until December 2012.
In Conversation Event – Wednesday 20 June: Sarah Morris discusses her new commission for Gloucester Road Tube with Ossian Ward, Visual Arts Editor, Time Out London. Dana Centre, Science Museum, 165 Queen’s Gate, London SW7 5HD. Event free, reservation essential by calling 020 7027 8694 or email firstname.lastname@example.org In collaboration with the Science Museum’s Contemporary Art Programme.
Images: Sarah Morris, Big Ben  ; Sarah Morris, Big Ben 2012, London 2012 Paralympic poster.
Art on the Underground http://art.tfl.gov.uk/