The work of Stephen Farthing RA often refers to his fascination with art history and this is certainly true of his current Artists' Laboratory exhibition at the RA. Many of the drawings and paintings displayed were produced as a creative response to his role as editor of the book '1001 Paintings to See Before You Die'.
One work, The Drawn History of Painting: The Map (2009), takes a cartographic approach, using Harry Beck's iconic London Underground map as inspiration. Farthing tackles the sprawling history of painting from the caves of Lascaux to the White Cube, linking up the themes that run throughout such as realism, decorativeness and irony.
"Beck's map is a brilliant piece of design - it reduces a very complex, messy business to a beautiful pattern and a coherent piece of communication," Farthing says. "I’ve used that map as the matrix, but it’s actually got nothing to do with the tube map, it’s his methodology that I’ve borrowed."
The work is hung alongside a series of pen and ink drawings that test the hypothesis. In the video below, Farthing describes the theory behind the work and demonstrates an example using Vincent van Gogh's painting The Bedroom.