Matthew Picton : Urban Narratives

Sumarria Lunn, London

by William Irwin

For a craft whose origins lie in the practical science of navigation, the enduring appeal of cartography as art is remarkable. Most often appreciated as windows into the past or as exquisite works of craftsmanship, artist Matthew Picton expands mapping-as-art into the realm of political and cultural commentary.

Picton uses the pages of symbolically charged books to construct three-dimensional cityscapes. The exhibition’s most contemporary piece is a map of central Tehran constructed from the charred covers of titles from Iran’s banned books list. There’s also Old Jerusalem constructed from religious texts, Dresden made from Wagner manuscripts, and plenty more.

With these map-sculptures, Picton aims to create “something that lives as a world,” and it his attention to detail that draws you into the miniature streets. One work even precisely recreates London in 1666 (the year of the great fire) from the charred remains of Daniel Defoe’s book “A journal of the Plague Year.” Look closely and you’ll see the half remaining section of London Bridge and the fire-ravaged shell of St Paul’s Cathedral.