(Above) Knut Henrik Henriksen's Full Circle. Photo: Daisy Hutchison
Exhibition: Art on the Underground – Full Circle, Knut Henrik Henriksen, Kings Cross St Pancras Underground Station, London
The first permanent artwork to be installed in London Underground since the 1980s was unveiled this week at the new concourse for the Northern Line at Kings Cross St Pancras Underground Station.
Knut Henrik Henriksen's Full Circle is the perfect complement to a highly contemporary design which aims to reflect and enhance the modern city experience while celebrating the latest stage in the reconstruction of one of London's oldest railway stations.
Walking down the escalators of the new concourse is a surreal experience. The curvaceous walkways are pristine, with not a spot of grime or chewing gum anywhere in sight.
Framed by stainless steel panels, the walls are reminiscent of some uber-modern space station rather than the dusty, forbidding catacombs of much of the Underground's Victorian network.
The artist's sketch of the piece
Henriksen's sculpture sits at the end of the new concourse – an elegant, stainless steel semicircle mounted on the far wall.
The circle is truncated where it meets the floor, implying that a segment has been lost. This has then been reinstated as an integral feature on the wall itself.
Like the new station, there is nothing brash about this work – it confronts you unobtrusively, casually at one with the highly functional yet stylish contours of this impressively modernised subterranean design masterpiece.
Streamlined and graceful, the curved side of the ring sits seamlessly on the floor, tip slanting against the arc of the tunnel wall.
The use of materials is economic and lines, forms and points are implied rather than overtly stated. There is a gentleness in the design, a simplicity that invites quiet contemplation.
Photo: Daisy Hutchison
"It is so appropriate for the station," points out Tamsin Dillon, Head of Art on the Underground.
"When you come across it I think it has such an impact. It exists as a small comment on the structure of the whole station – it is almost like a small piece of humour on the nature of the architecture of the new concourse."
Henriksen's sculpture continues the influence of European Modernism on the Underground, which has played a pivotal role since the 1930s.
Frank Pick, Managing Director in the 1930s, is renowned for travelling across Europe with the architect Charles Holden, gathering ideas for the network’s stations.
At the forefront of their design process is the use of simple forms rather than decoration, with a reliance on brick, steel and glass dominating their vision.
"We are hugely proud of the new ticket hall at Kings Cross and of Henriksen's work," says Richard Parry, Managing Director of London Underground.
"The new concourse will have a transformative effect on the way that we manage the station, and we are sure that this permanent art work will be the first of many such works to come."
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