Since the earliest ages of man, people have sought to map and understand their surroundings. From figures drawn on cave walls to show a route to Babylon, to the illustrated manuscripts that inspired Marco Polo in his search for “lands of gods and spices”, maps have always had the ability to inspire the would-be traveler.
To see windroses buffeting a spindly ship on a sea of ink, or to look to the edges of a map and read the legend “here be dragons” is to feel an echo of that sense of the romance of exploration. Though science can chart our world in precise detail, maps have lost none of their artistic power.
The imaginary worlds that are mapped in this exhibition detail alternate earths, treasure islands, ships’ graveyards, a ruined Atlantean city, and a transit system on a Venus settlement. The 40 cartographers – whose work can be seen in best-selling books, magazines, computer-games and fantasy games – combine craft and aesthetic to give us glimpses of worlds ripe for adventure.
And in the uncharted edges of these worlds, who knows, there may well “be dragons”.
I’m curating a gallery show of maps of imaginary places. It’s taking place in Soho, New York at the Soho Gallery for Digital Art from the 16th to the 29th of July. We have over 40 artists signed up for the show – from experienced industry professionals to highly talented hobbyists. If you’re in the area, then drop by.