"Now this is the map of the district, and by the markings you can see where I hope to find what I seek…"
—Tom Swift in the Land of Wonders, or, The Underground Search for the Idol of Gold, Victor Appleton, 1917

GET CARTA brings together eight contemporary artists linked by their use of mapping in their varied practices concerned with social, political and cultural structures. However, rather than simply present artists who use the form, or the 'look' of the map, GET CARTA aims more specifically to investigate the artists' use of, or reliance on, explorations carried out previously by others.

Cally Trench explores her local community by using the traditional convention of the aerial view, prepared by carrying out an investigation of her immediate area at ground level, however it is the areas she is denied access to that are the focus of this work, a network of local privacies.

Stephen Walter's Map of Liverpool was made by speaking to the city's inhabitants: his graphite mapping of the city filled with a density of public and personal stories of a place that was previously unknown to him.

Claire Brewster's art transforms the ordinary boundaries of nature and territory. Animal and plant life is remodelled in cut-up maps that have a simple fragility, the filigree paper cuts enabling a setting free of nature normally locked into distinct habitats.

Vanessa Rolf's Horizon records a notional journey into the lonely wastes of Siberia, informed by Colin Thubron's poetic travelogue, whereas her arctic exploration Narvik was embroidered on linens requisitioned by the artist's Grandfather during World War II from German ships before they were sunk. Many of the previous owners of the linens became prisoners of war and the piece serves as a memorial not only to Rolf's family but also to those whose fate was sealed along with their ships.

Stephen Harwood revisits his home county via google street-view, which has now ventured out of the big cities into semi-rural England, for a series of drawings of remembered places from his childhood and adolescence.

Californian artist Karen Ay's lightbox sculpture presents images that originated from cracks in the pavements of her adopted home of East London transformed into glowing satellite images by computer, the ordinariness of our surroundings imagined from space. Ay is also showing The Luck of the Draw, a subverted poker-table with chips marked WEALTH HEALTH LITERACY EQUALITY piled high, and playing cards backed with map fragments strewn over the green baize as though abandoned. The work is informed by statistics derived from the UN Human Development Index, a ranking of wellbeing / livability, and in this way becomes a three-dimensional graph of the world as a landscape of chance.

Emma J William's Red Drawings are arterial roads, in fleshy pinks and reds, stained bleeding landscapes, that remind us of the lifeblood of our towns and cities, a theme continued in Susan Stockwell's wall mounted artery sculptures, often of international cities but here we visit the artist's own backyard of South London. A mesh of familiar streets and trunk roads painstakingly cut from a London bus map, resulting in a sculpture that is both teeming with life but also absurdly, permanently, delicate. A carefully ordered urban chaos that would splinter with the merest tug.

Whether such mapping belongs more to the world of fiction than fact—an artistic invention rather than a Cartographer's presentation of data—or is based on an atlas, globe or the street plan of a city or transport system, such material seems to provide a necessary framework for these artists in navigating their chosen locales as they (re)create them. The reliance may be slight or barely perceptible, a mere reference or starting point, or may be so strong and persuasive as to inhabit the form of the artist's investigation entirely. It may even provide some sort of strength of purpose.

GET CARTA aims to explore how these past investigations are claimed by these artists, enabling something new to be said.

Curated by Stephen Harwood.

Review of GET CARTA by Annie Ridout from the Hackney Citizen, originally published June 2012.

Images from the Exhibition