‘999 Miles to Venice’


Collage: map pieces, graphite & acrylic on canvas

3 panels h 61 x w 61 cm each, 2015

Framing: unframed, on canvas

Three square panels map the 999 mile journey by road and sea from Poole in Dorset to Venice in Italy. Inspired by John Ogilby’s 17th century strip maps which showed travellers in England how to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’ by mapping their journey as a straight line with an accompanying set of instructions, this journey is presented as a continuous set of vertical straight lines.

The exact route was mapped first using Google Earth, then recreated mile by mile in physical form using 1:200 scale English, French and Italian maps.

Across the English Channel to Cherbourg, down to Paris, across Eastern France, through the Alps to just touch Switzerland in Geneva, on into Italy to Milan, past the lakes through Verona and on to Venice…


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The Venice Biennale is one of the oldest and most prestigious art fairs in the world. Mile by mile, this artwork tracks the exact route I would have to take from my home in Dorset to reach the Giardini. These are the gardens on the banks of the Bacino di San Marco (canal) which have been the traditional venue for the International Art Exhibition since 1895.

The Lure of Venice

I’ve always wanted to go to the Biennale, or just go to Venice, period. There are many reasons for wanting to go and I could justify this goal in a myriad of ways…

  • The art, architecture and ambience of the place itself.
  • The richness of the Biennale spectacle – the ultimate extravagance or overdose of high quality work and meeting the art world in its element.
  • Curiosity.

And a few of my friends have exhibited in their country’s pavilion in the past (what’s that like?)…

Dream on

So, impatient to make it happen somehow, while recovering from an operation in bed and unable to go anywhere physically, on the 1st of January 2015,  I decided to take a virtual journey there at least. I simply started mapping out the journey.

From me to there.

Inspired by Maya Lin’s use of technology to help her visualise her work, I first turned to Google Maps and tried out various potential routes. I was for some reason delighted when I discovered that from my home postcode in Poole to the Giardini pavilion where the Biennale usually opens is exactly 999 miles.

  • What would happen along the way across those 999 miles?
  • Where would that journey take me?

Earth to Google

I installed Google Earth to go ‘see’ more… but, compelled to make something ‘real’, I dissected the pages of an old Atlas and collaged them together on the wall so I could visualise and explore this journey in a different way and without needing an electronic device switched on.

I wanted to explore the journey in more detail though. So, I ordered some 1:200 scale road maps and began experimenting with piecing them together for this particular journey. If you’ve ever used a Michelin road map, you’ll know how much space they take up when you unfold them. To get right across France at this scale I needed 7 different maps, so they literally took over the whole studio.

You can see this in action here on YouTube!

Pilgrim’s Progress

This whole process was a sort of distillation and sorting process. I sifted through thousands of roads in France and Italy to find the ‘right’ ones. I pieced together highways and tunnels and bits of sea to recreate this specific route, this particular ‘way’, and this set direction. It felt slightly crazy at the time, but the resulting triptych is visually quite delicate. I think it’s also quite fascinating on many levels. 

The journey is a personal pilgrimage of sorts and the sale of this piece will enable me to make the actual trip itself, from which of course, I’ll create more artwork.

‘999 Miles to Venice’ was last modified: April 8th, 2019 by Michelle Rumney

Additional information

Weight 750 kg


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