Exhibition: Mappa Mundi
45 Park Lane, The Dorchester’s sister hotel, prides itself on mixing fine art with contemporary style. Sir Peter Blake’s Dancing Girls over Rotten Row hangs in the Penthouse Suite, and all 16 of Damien Hirst’s limited edition Diamond Dust Psalms adorn the hotel’s restaurant, CUT at 45 Park Lane. The hotel features an ever-changing programme of temporary displays, and its latest exhibition, Mappa Mundi by David Ewan Eason, is currently adding extra lustre to the hotel’s already glittering lobby and bar until November 27.
The exhibition consists of an array of large-scale golden maps of world cities and continents, hand-drawn on 24-carat gold or Palladium leaf. They portray some of the world’s most recognisable landmarks, but flooded with gilt and with street names removed, the maps are no longer navigational tools but breathtaking works of abstract art.
Although the exhibition’s name may be Medieval – Mappa Mundi literally means ‘charts of the world’ – Eason’s maps represent our contemporary landscape, and are designed to remind us how quickly the footprint of a city can change beyond recognition.
These modern artworks owe another debt to the past, having been inspired by Charles Booth’s 19th-century poverty maps. These early works of social cartography were designed to show the distribution of the different social classes in London, each area colour-coded according to its inhabitants’ wealth. Eason takes a different approach, erasing visible inequalities by literally paving every street with gold. Without any markers of affluence or poverty, the maps can be appreciated simply for their aesthetic appeal.
Eason has had his work displayed at the Barbican, The Royal Academy of Arts, and around the world, and has produced sculptures, paintings, videos and prints, before settling on gilt as his favourite medium to work with.
He has been fascinated with the concept of contrasts since studying Cézanne at Bath Spa. And Mappa Mundi is a perfect evocation of that idea: the permanence of gold is juxtaposed with the transience of a man-made landscape; a look at the modern world is inspired by a Medieval tradition; the world’s most coveted material is used for works inspired by poverty. This exhibition offers up an unusual way of looking at the world, in more ways than one.