Looking: Maps as art

11 Feb

I love maps. Always have. For as long as I can remember, sketching maps has helped me survive countless exams, boring church services, and slow days at work. On long car trips, I would browse the street directory, following our journey and trying to guess what the destination would be like. I quickly learnt that straight lines equal flat terrain, wobbly lines mean it’s either hilly or an old part of town, and sphaghetti shapes probably means it’s going to be a newer McMansion suburb. I also learnt that the messier the map looks, the worse the traffic will be (take Sydney or London as a case in point).

I haven’t quite figured out why I love them so much. It could be the sense of discovery; the sense of finding somewhere new. Maybe it evokes a desire to travel and explore new places, a sort of abstract armchair travel. Perhaps it’s simply a subconscious effort to escape wherever I am at that particular moment. Or it could just be that I like the look of them.

Several artists find maps similarly inspiring. The above work, Matrix by Emma Johnson, creates deconstructed maps using recycled materials, symbolising the tangible yet ambiguous nature of communication and transportation networks.

Another example is the late Burt Hasen, who was a soldier in World War II. Hasen’s time spent reading maps on the field inspired him to spend the rest of his life creating cartographic art, such as Convulsive Coupling (below).

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Posted by on February 11, 2009 in art, looking


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