Like a giant mediaeval map, 'The Island' by Stephen Walter is startling and absorbing. The 'island' of the title refers to Greater and Inner London. Surrounding locations are depicted as smaller islands, adrift in various waters, from the 'Sea of Essex' to 'The Eastern Deeps'. The names of the smaller islands denote places outside the demarcated zone of London, including 'Thorpe Park Leisure Island' and 'The Isle of Leatherhead'.
'The Island' demands close attention. It is densely packed with names and symbols, revealing Walters' witty re-appropriation of London's history and events. By marking individual boroughs with the names of people, places, events and small drawings, he reveals his own likes and dislikes. Wembley, in north-west London, is tagged 'not exactly the most inspiring place to have the home of football', alongside '£6.50 for a hot dog': observations based on personal experience. Just as engrossing is the map's accompanying key. Some of the illustrated symbols are familiar ('Hospital' and 'Picnic Site'), others are comical, idiosyncratic inventions: 'Pawn Broker', and 'Mercs Found Here'. Through his underlying humour and affectionate tone, Walter's selection of historical events is fascinating. 'The Island' encapsulates our obsession with random facts and anecdotes, in this case harvested from Google and Wikipedia. It is a supremely compelling record of one person's view of British social and cultural history, filtered by personal preference.
Born in 1975, Stephen Walters studied Fine Art at Manchester Metropolitan University (1995-98) and Printmaking at the Royal College of Art (1999-2001). Solo exhibitions of his work in 2007 include 'Old Master Re-Vamp' at the Royal Academy and 'The Island' at TAG Fine Arts, London, where he exhibited this work alongside prints of individual London boroughs. Walters was Fellow in Printmaking at the Royal Academy of Arts Schools from 2005 to 2007. He currently lives and works in London.
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