I have always been intrigued by maps. I find that a map piques one’s curiosity and fires one’s imagination. What’s that feature – a tumulus, a burial mound? Whose? Why was that town built there? What does that place name mean? How did people get from here to there? What battle was fought on the site of those crossed swords and what did it mean for the people living there?
A map represents not just the roads and topography of the land but also, in those place names and physical monuments, its history.
I have written before about the artist Adam Dant’s Maps of London and Beyond (Spitalields Life Books,2018) in which maps capture the city at different times in its past and play with the ideas of space and time. I also referred to some daubings of my own, also map pictures, but which were more personal in nature.
Many years ago, when in Rome, I began what became my Roman map picture, (see photo, right) which showed the Rome I frequented and was enchanted by, including my friend’s homes where I often stayed (before visiting for a longer period of time, in another capacity). If you look closely you will see my friend’s little red deux chevaux trundling its way around town.
So it includes a friend’s ‘balloon’ sculpture (the balloon was solid) which sat on a table in his salon and the view from another friend’s apartment. I included sketches of the places I particularly liked to go – the Roman Forum, the walk down from the Aventine. A friend’s parents lived on the Quirinale, where we ate panetone and drank champagne one New Year. Things too – there’s the very smart skirt I bought from that little boutique in the Via Condotti and my coffee pot replacement after an accident at a dinner party had wrecked my previous one (much grappa was drunk). I still have both.
These fix my Rome in my mind, as does the map. I haven’t returned recently (in fact I haven’t been there for over twenty-five years) and the place will have changed a lot – though not the buildings, and, therefore, the street plan, for most are protected. I corresponded with the friends and met up for years, but I am no longer in touch with most of those I knew then, as new friends came along, in new places. So the interiors on the map are now like the battle sites and tumuli, indicators of historical occurrences, of events and people in the past. My memories on a map.
More recently I began a similar map of Jerez de la Frontera, where I now spend quite a lot of my time (this map is at too early a stage for a photograph) and I have been thinking of doing something similar for my part of London. But Clapham already has a similar map, by Jenni Sparks, not one personal to me, but closer to Dant’s maps, in that it seeks to capture the history of the place and the famous people who have lived here, not least the famous writers ( see Place & the Writer ). That doesn’t mean I can’t have one of my own…..