Thursday, 14 October 2010



Borough Tube Station

On the way home from Tate Modern I pass Borough Tube Station, with its grid of 60 portraits of staff drawn at work or in scraps of time off during their shift. This photo shows a handful, with a pair of lamp post shadows looking as if they’re interrogating the subjects. Goodwin drew them in different work places:  train operator’s cabs, signalling towers, management offices, station control rooms, ticket offices and gates. The caption under each one records the time taken to make each portrait (counted in seconds) next to the number of years the member of staff has worked on the Jubilee line.

There’s more to on to and you open a magic door.  Goodwin combines drawing with sound, photography and video.  You can tune into 60 brief speeded up films, one for each person, shot as the portrait was being drawn, with edited fragments of the conversation between artist and sitter. There’s the story of a stone-throwing lad taken after the court case to the depot where someone suggests looking into an apprenticeship; a rueful reflection on what might have been in the light of his sons’ success, intermingled with pride in his work; a moving tale of care and compassion when a traveller has a heart attack on an escalator.
The investment of time is an underlying theme. These lively warm, humane, informative,  multi-layered portraits contrast with what constitutes a ‘proper’ portrait to hang in a gallery or stately home, where the medium is lasting, when sittings take weeks, months, even years and the subject has the advantage of choosing location, regalia, furnishings, costume, make up -  and artist. 
Goodwin’s LINEAR is different, evoking a wonderfully powerful sense of the individuals and the collective in whom we place our lives every time we go down, down into the underground. 

When I get home the papers are full of reports from the inquest into the 7.7.2005 terrorist attack on London underground (and a bus), speaking of acts of kindness and heroism shown by rescuers, survivors and members of the public alike.

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