Southwark Underground Station, uk

Gayle Chong Kwan: Cockaigne

30 Nov 2006 – 30 Apr 2007

Past exhibition

Large-scale exhibition of Cockaigne mounted on the exterior walls of Southwark Underground station



Southwark Underground Station
68-70 Blackfriars Rd,
London SE1 8JZ, UK

past exhibition

This exhibition is now closed. View our current exhibitions here


Famously painted by Brueghel the Elder in 1567, Cockaigne was a 14th Century fictional glutton’s paradise island, a land made entirely of food, where all wants and needs are met.  Hams and cheeses grow on trees, fountains run with beer, houses are roofed with pies.  Erudite and multi-layered, Cockaigne explores utopian ideals of paradise and the presentation of the exotic in the global tourism and travel industries, as well as European legend and the history of Fine Art.

At Disney’s Epcot Centre in Florida idealised representations of world cities and cultures have been built around a circular lake, most at two-thirds scale. The day can be spent walking from China to Morocco via Venice, perhaps stopping off in Mexico for a meal of tortillas and Japan for green tea, before returning to your starting point. In the same way Cockaigne brings together geographical, historical monuments and landscapes in one impossible and ultimately overbearing paradise island made out of food.

An icy landscape made of butter and lard is based on Casper David Friedrich’s Wreck of the Hope, the Tower of Babel is created out of meats, El Dorado of potatoes, and the Garden of Eden of rotting apples.  A ‘Disney’ castle (itself inspired by ‘Mad’ King Ludwig II of Bavaria’s Neuschwanstein Castle - the king commissioned a stage designer as architect) is revealed after close inspection to be constructed of sliced white bread.

The various scenes share similar horizons, visually linking up into a fantastical landscape reminiscent of the exotic scenarios created by Dufour in 19th Century hand-printed French panorama wallpapers.  The twelve 31.5 x40” landscape prints echo the European tradition of depicting the twelve months of the year or the four seasons.

view the commission




New Amazonia

ABOUT THE artist

Gayle Chong Kwan is a British artist who lives and works in London, born in 1973. Her work is often context specific or involves people in rituals of exchange, such as food or trade, to explore ideas of history, the senses and memory. The personal and global politics of food and tourism have been a major focus of Chong Kwan's work to date. Chong Kwan has shown extensively in the United Kingdom and abroad. In 2005 she recieved a Pepinieres Europeenes Pour Jeunes Artistes Award and an Arts Council England award. Recent residencies and exhibitions include: Cittadellarte - Fondazione Pistoletto, Italy; Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester; FRED, Cumbria; Great Eastern Hotel, London; and Venice Printmaking, Italy.

Banner image: Gayle Chong Kwan, Babel [detail] from the series Cockaigne, 2004. © the artist. Commissioned by Autograph, London.

Preview: All works © the artist and commissioned by Autograph, London. 1) Gayle Chong Kwan, Resort from the series Cockaigne, 2004. 2) Gayle Chong Kwan, Avalon from the series Cockaigne, 2004. 3) Gayle Chong Kwan, Republic from the series Cockaigne, 2004. 4) Gayle Chong Kwan, New Amazonia from the series Cockaigne, 2004.