St Pancras International unveils HMS Alice Liddell, a major new art installation adapted to the Shezad Dawood site.
Combining a wide range of references to science fiction, steampunk, architecture and literature, Dawood’s sculpture imagines a new vessel of travel, reconfiguring the past to suggest the importance of shared journeys to possible futures. collectives.
St Pancras is such a link and meeting point for so many communities in London and beyond: it connects London to the East Coast Mainline and provides a direct link to Europe via the Eurostar. I wanted the work to speak both to the history of St Pancras and also to its dynamic future. With all that is happening, it is important to celebrate London’s diversity and big heart, and I hope that this project, with its meeting of the past and the future, will allow us all to imagine alternative paths, and how we could collectively work together to travel in new directions.
Located in The Circle – a modern area of the station located at the junction between the original building and its modern extension – HMS Alice Liddell reflects elements of William Henry Barlow’s innovative and radical engineering of the station itself, as well as Sir George Gilbert Scott’s Gothic spiers of the present St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel. This iconic architecture was formative for Dawood, who grew up locally and has a long-standing relationship with the region. His aesthetic and cultural heritage is deeply embedded in the work: the sculpture’s namesake is the true inspiration behind Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Carroll’s original manuscript is archived at the nearby British Library.
Dawood’s work claims Alice as a traveler of our time: a proto-science fiction heroine who explored the quantum possibilities of multiple but connected realities and universes. In Dawood’s signature blend of physical and digital worlds, visitors can use their phone to scan a QR code that unlocks an augmented reality filter, expanding the experience of the artwork. With physical sculpture, this digital space invites audiences of all ages to embark, much like Alice in Wonderland, on literal and metaphorical journeys, moving through the past and into a kaleidoscopic future.
The AR also reflects Dawood’s collaborative approach, with a new song commissioned by JayaHadADream, a member of Nottingham-based all-female music collective WondHERland, created in partnership with New Art Exchange. This collaboration links the commission in London to the vibrant arts scene in Nottingham, a key stop on the HS1 route. Audiences will be able to listen to a series of podcasts produced by WondHERland in dialogue with themes from Dawood’s work and listen to songs written by the musicians on the beloved jukebox at St Pancras Station. This collaboration also involved visual artist Honey Williams and sound artist Tom Harris, both also Nottingham-based creatives.
Suspended in space and can be enjoyed from multiple vantage points, HMS Alice Liddell is painted with a polychromatic finish, in a nod to the psychedelic colors of imaginary wonderlands and space travel, while paying homage to the diversity of London’s communities. The work embodies a fantastic vision, where the past meets the future of travel, technology and collective experience, via the space of the imagination.
We are delighted to unveil this ambitious new commission that continues our celebration of the arts industry, in addition to offering visitors a stimulating new cultural experience. Shezad’s extremely detailed design combines clever references to our history, architecture, local community, literature and travels and we look forward to seeing how all ages interact with the artwork by viewing the public installation and through a new interactive AR experience.
Wendy Spinks, Commercial Director at HS1
About the artist
Shezad Dawood is a multidisciplinary artist who intertwines stories, realities and symbolism to create richly layered works of art, spanning painting, textiles, sculpture, film and digital media. Fascinated by ecologies and architecture, his work takes a philosophical approach, asking questions and exploring alternative futures through what Dawood describes as “world-building” and “imagination”. Her practice is driven by research, working with multiple audiences and communities to delve into narrative, history and embodiment.
Dawood’s work has been featured at institutions including Tate, MoMA, Pioneer Works, Venice Biennale, Gwangju Biennale, Taipei Biennale, Sharjah Biennale, Manifesta and Wiels. Her work has been acquired for international collections such as Tate, Guggenheim, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, National Gallery of Canada, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UK Government Art Collection, Government Art Collection, UBS and The British Museum.
Dawood was born in London in 1974 and trained at Central St Martin’s and the Royal College of Art before undertaking a doctorate at Leeds Metropolitan University. Dawood is a Senior Researcher in Experimental Media at the University of Westminster. He lives and works in London.
- 150th anniversary of St Pancras International
- Shezad Daoud
Mark Westall is the founder and editor of FAD magazine, founder and co-editor of Art of Conversation and founder of the @worldoffad platform