Although the vibrancy of the Golden Lane area is threatened by Taylor Wimpey’s Denizen development, there is still a lot to celebrate about our neighbourhood. One thing many Golden Lane Estate residents are rightly proud of in their street is the notorious ‘LOOK LEFT’ (2016) road marking with an arrow pointing right. This is at the junction with Old Street, on the east side of a pedestrian island at the north end of Golden Lane. Anyone who takes their cue from the arrow rather than the wording is in danger of being run down.
Perhaps whoever painted these markings was a fan of old exploitation movies such as Death Race 2000 (1975), or more recent Grand Theft Auto computer games; maybe they just wanted people to stand rooted to the spot on the traffic island, confused by the written instruction and its graphic interpretation contradicting each other! On the other hand they may have wanted to provide a proletarian take on surrealist works like René Magritte‘s The Treachery of Images (1929) – a picture of a pipe with text beneath stating “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”. While Magritte highlights the gap between language and meaning, the Golden Lane road marking evokes a different kind of tension, and might be seen as an attempt to enter the realm of pure contradiction without any possibility of a dialectical resolution.
The road marking is just inside the borough of Islington, and while it is very near the border with the City of London, the Corporation shouldn’t be given kudos for it as an artistic intervention in their Culture Mile (which in any case it predates). It is certainly more subtle than the Banksy street art that appeared at the southern end of Golden Lane in September 2017; and for which the City of London has yet to take credit despite widespread rumours that the council – or at least the Barbican Art Gallery which they fund – secretly commissioned it.
This surrealist signage definitely complements the modernism and brutalism to be found elsewhere in the street in the form of the Golden Lane Estate and Barbican complex, both designed by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon. This anonymous work won’t sit so well with The Denizen AKA The Turd ghost home owners if the development is built and they come to visit their buy-to-leave investments. It is far more likely to confuse those from places where vehicles drive on the right hand side of the road than people who are used to London traffic, and might possibly endanger them. That said, it is refreshing to come across street interventions that are potentially hazardous; since so much of what’s to be seen on walls in inner London is simply artwashing instigated by developers!
“A spectre is haunting the cynical overdevelopment that characterises London’s buy to leave property boom, the spectre of modernism!” #savegoldenlane