The tunnels underneath Waterloo station are one hundred and sixty years old.
High, vaulted spaces, smelling strongly of damp and shaken periodically by the passage of trains overhead, they make a brilliant setting for the exhibition curated by Stuart Semple, in support of mental health charity Mind.
The exhibition is a multi-sensory experience; as well as featuring challenging and disturbing pieces, water drips down the brickwork in places and the lighting is atmospheric, directed at the art works and leaving other areas in a shadowy, unlit state.
Works by luminaries – Tracey Emin, the Chapman brothers – are displayed alongside works by lesser known artists, all of whom are expressing their support for Mind’s initiative in support of creative therapies.
The works are mainly dark. Tessa Farmer’s dessicated magpie, complete with attendant dead insects suspended on fine strings over the corpse. The sublime and shocking sight of the late artist Sebastian Horsley undergoing a crucifixion, filmed by Sarah Lucas. Unearthly sculptures of women’s heads sleeping on strange pillows, with a whispered narration of dreams emerging from their heads.
It is a powerful collection of diverse works. And the exhibition seems to carry some larger message – about the dank, dirty, unexplored places where art comes from, under ground, under consciousness, under politeness and money and working hours – underneath the whole of the city life occurring over the tunnels.
That the proceeds from the show will go into Mind’s new creative therapies fund also seems entirely right. Exploring the dark, curving vaults underneath is for so many people the place of healing.
The exhibition is free, open from 11-7 and on till 26 September at The Old Vic Tunnels, London SE1
More details from http://mindfulofart.com