Tobias Till is a young artist whose work can be seen as following in the grand British tradition of the urban color linocut. But unlike Cyril Powers, Sybil Andrews or Claude Flight in the 1930s, Till does not rework the chaos of the city into brilliantly streamlined engines of visual delight. His city is crowded and bumptious; his line angular and abrupt. Most of his prints are large-scale affairs stuffed with multiple narratives and specific landmarks identifying corners of London.
London A-Z breaks these dense images out into convenient abecedarian bites, from the Albert Memorial to the Zoo with 24 stops in between. With some artists, one might suspect a cynical, marketing-savvy edge to the adoption of such a format, especially during the year of the London Olympics, but for Till—as for Robert Cottingham [see Art in Print, Vol. 1, No. 5]—it is an obvious choice. Yes, there are plenty of touristic delights here to take home to Schenectady or wherever, but there are also occasional surprises: W is for Wormwood Scrubs (the prison, not the nature reserve).
Admittedly, Till’s London appears a pretty benign place, far from the desperation of Hogarth’s Gin Lane or Gustave Doré’s dark slum yards. Another alphabet could certainly be imagined, one in which B is for Brixton rather than Borough Market and C is for CCTV rather than Carnaby Street, but the truth is that any view of a great city is going to be a partial one.
The charm of Till’s view lies in the small observations that bring home the real and satisfying fabric of city life: U is for Underground shows a toddler on the train platform pointing out vermin to his mother, who seems to be nodding something along the lines of “Yes, dear, very good! That’s two rats.”