Sunday, September 15, 2013


Yesterday we went down to the Isle of Dogs, where the great brick sugar warehouses on the side of West India Docks have for the last decase housed the Docklands museum.  This summer they have mounted their first exhibition of contemporary art, perhaps inspired by the excellent art programme at the National Maritime Museum (Dan Holdsworth, High Arctic, Ansel Adams).  As Ken Worpole says in his review on Caught by the River, Estuary is terrific stuff: 'there’s a real feel for the wind and the waves, and the smack of saltwater in nearly every contribution. Its success may encourage the transformation of the Docklands Museum into a major new public gallery for contemporary work about this great historical mind-altering space.'  I hope so, although there were hardly any other visitors there yesterday (in contrast to the opening night, which Ken says was 'awash with beer, champagne and oysters').  This did mean however that I was able to enjoy alone the full 18 minutes of John Smith's beautiful installation film Horizon, a really impressive piece of work commissioned by Margate Contemporary last year.

As you enter the exhibition you encounter two of Jock McFadyen's panoramic views of the A13 hinterland and Michael Andrews' last completed work, Thames Painting: The Estuary (1994-5), which conveys the action of water on sand by mixing ash into diluted paint.  Other works document the course of the Thames in photographs and photogravures: the decaying seaforts, redundent industrial land ripe for urban regeneration, detritus washed up on the margins of the river, old ships sinking into the mud. You can watch William Raban's excellent Thames Film, which I described here three years ago, a fast-forward trip (Jaunt) from Southend to the Houses of Parliament by Andrew Kötting, who recently collaborated with Iain Sinclair on Swandown, and a long sequence by Nikolaj B. S. Larsen documenting the working life of the river.  Most enjoyable of all, there is footage of The Bow Gamelan Ensemble from 1985, performing 51º 29'.9"North - 0º11' East, Rainham Barges, bashing out music from makeshift instruments at the river's edge as the tide rises and night falls.  I'll end here with a clip from Youtube capturing the group members at that time (the Ensemble disbanded in 1990), talking rubbish.

No comments: