A major new commission for Art on the Underground at Gloucester Road tube station, London May 2023 - May 2024
For her commission, Monster Chetwynd has created a monumental sculptural intervention, Pond Life: Albertopolis and the Lily, that explores the entwined histories of Gloucester Road station and the vast programme of cultural redevelopment that followed the Great Exhibition of 1851, housed in the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park.
At Gloucester Road tube station, Chetwynd presents a series of five 4-metre diameter disc-shaped sculptures, designed to span the 80-metre disused platform. Taking inspiration from the Crystal Palace, an iconic engineering marvel of its day, and the incredible story of the gardener-turned-architect Joseph Paxton, who based the structure’s radical modular design on the giant Amazonian water lily. Each sculpture is populated with an ecosystem of 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.
To accompany the commission, Chetwynd has also made a new film, Who Named the Lily?, shot on 35mm film. The film attempts to represent different forms of truth, unraveling the story behind Paxton’s ingenuity to acknowledge the context of Victorian innovation as inseparable from the colonial expansion of the period.
As part of the project, Chetwynd has devised an interactive detective hunt along the Exhibition Road pedestrian tunnel that invites families and primary school groups to investigate a series of artworks with hidden clues. Together with the monumental sculptural intervention and film, the commission extends Chetwynd’s history of creating public art and enduring interest in creating works that seek to engage audiences across diverse backgrounds and age ranges.