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Estuary English

October 4, 2013

London’s Canary Wharf is an area synonymous with bankers and money, but there is also the more cerebral Museum of London Docklands, where I recently saw an excellent exhibition.
Works by twelve contemporary artists are shown in Estuary, an exhibition conceived within the context of recent energy and transport proposals for the Thames Estuary.
Francis Marshall, curator of Estuary said: “When we decided nearly two years ago to hold an exhibition of contemporary art, the airport proposal was at the front of Londoners’ minds. This renewed focus on the Estuary, combined with a fantastic body of contemporary art which depicts the place, cemented the museum’s plans to stage Estuary.”

Dagenham

Jock McFadyen, Dagenham, 2006, oil on canvas (Image courtesy of the Museum of London)

Purfleet: from Dracula's Garden

Jock McFadyen, Purfleet: from Dracula’s Garden, 2001, oil on canvas (Image courtesy of the Museum of London)

For me, the exhibition highlight is two huge paintings by Jock McFadyen. These works, with their brooding Essex skies, depict the hinterland off the bleak A13 dual-carriageway. It was great to see works by McFadyen again, who I associate more with his late ‘80s figurative works (which are aptly described by the Royal Academy as “populated by the waifs and strays of pre-Canary Wharf London”). However, after McFadyen designed the sets and costumes for Kenneth MacMillan’s The Judas Tree at the Royal Opera House in 1992, the figures drop away from his paintings, leaving them as pure, monumental landscapes.

Neighbour, Stephen Turner

Neighbour, Stephen Turner, 2005 (Image courtesy of the Museum of London)

Stephen Turner’s beautiful slide show documents the 36 days he spent alone on a Thames seafort in 2005. These now rotting Maunsell Forts were defences against German bombers, who used the river to navigate their way to bomb London during the Second World War. Turner also records his time on a fort on his Seafort website. One entry reads: “I’m not the only inhabitant of the fort. Last night a gang of cormorants arrived and took over the control tower and the eastern gun tower. I counted thirty nine birds, including one who perched below my window and seemed to prefer the solitude.”

IN40225

Crossness Sludge Incinerator, Peter Marshall, 2000, archival pigment print on paper (Image courtesy of the Museum of London)

 Other intriguing works include Peter Marshall’s series of images of the Thames Gateway and an atmospheric film by William Raban.

The exhibition continues at the Museum of London Docklands until 27 October.

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