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Deptford: How sculptor Dot Young uses her work to highlight environmental issues

Based at Art Hub Studios, the artist draws inspiration from Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai

Sculptor Dot Young at work in her studio
Sculptor Dot Young at work in her studio – image Matt Grayson

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BY LAURA ENFIELD

What do a Nobel Prize-winning Kenyan environmentalist and a Scottish-born sculptor based in Deptford have in common?

Both felt overwhelmed by the raging environmental issues facing the world and decided to take action, no matter how small.

In the 1970s Wangari Maathai spoke of a hummingbird trying to put out a forest fire with tiny drops of water while larger animals disparaged it for being too small to help. It replied: “I’m doing the best I can”.

“That for me is what we all should do,” Wangari said.

“Be like the hummingbird. I may be insignificant, but I certainly don’t want to be like the animals watching as the planet goes down the drain.”

She went on to help reforest swathes of Africa and founded the Green Belt movement.

Half a century later, Deptford creative Dot Young is celebrating Wangari’s story with a series of delicate relief sculptures and is seeking to make her own practice as sustainable as possible.

“I work in an industry that is quite environmentally impactful,” said the 58-year-old, who has been based at Art Hub Studios in Creekside for the last decade.

“It’s on the consciousness of makers, about how what we’re doing impacts the planet. I don’t use resin anymore and I’ve been experimenting with more environmentally friendly materials.

“As a sculptor, you can get caught up in lots of non-biodegradable plastics that aren’t really appropriate anymore.

“I also run a degree course in prop-making at the Royal Central School Of Speech And Drama and I’ve been turning the focus to not ordering as much timber and using thick cardboards.”

Dot works from initial sketches before using polymer clay
Dot works from initial sketches before using polymer clay – image Matt Grayson

Her work on Wangari is part of her Natural Formations series, which celebrates habitats, the environment and activists.

She has based much of it on 19th Century illustrative prints from environmentalists and botanists.

She has crafted the reliefs from hard plaster or jesmonite, a more sustainable alternative to resin, and has been experimenting by casting with different papers.

Dot said to find eco-friendly methods we only needed to look back.

“I worked in Venice for a short period with the mask makers,” she said.

“The traditional Venetian mask is actually made from a woollen paper called carta lana, soaked into a plaster mould and coated in sermel gesso, another environmentally friendly, ancient material.

“This method eventually got usurped by Chinese vacuum-formed plastics.

“It’s really interesting when you turn the clock back and look at what things were made of, pre-industrial revolution.

“You find ways of making that can be reinvented in a contemporary style.

“I’m interested in experimenting in mixing dust with gum arabic.

“The possibilities are endless for looking at how you might develop a new material.”

Dot first became more conscious of eco issues through her project Chair, which tracked the history of an oak chair from the forest where the tree had grown, to the sawmill and then the furniture manufacturer.

“The only chair I could find that was fully made in Britain was from High Wycombe,” she said.

“It made me realise we don’t have a furniture industry in the UK anymore, which is very sad.

“Then I moved on to tracking other things, like hair extensions I bought in Dulwich, which I traced back to Chennai in India. 

“I was getting very aware of the globalisation of materials and doing the work to give people an idea that there was a responsibility around the objects we buy, of knowing where they come from, how they’re manufactured, if people have been exploited and their carbon footprint. 

“It actually got quite intense and depressing. The reality was very overwhelming.

“I could have become a political activist but I decided to go back to the studio, because I wanted to find a way to celebrate nature.”

Dot's pieces take as long as they take
Dot’s pieces take as long as they take – image Matt Grayson

Dot began looking at the work of people who had archived natural phenomena, such as Ernst Haeckel.

To capture them in 3D she started using a method she calls slow sculpting, allowing whatever time is required to complete each piece.

She believes that having this intense and intimate relationship with the work is communicated in the outcomes.

“I’d been doing a lot of sculptural installation work until then,” said Dot.

“It had been very conceptual and I was craving the technical challenge of traditional sculpture.

“I did some completely out-there pieces, inspired by 19th century cakes but really wanted to get more intricate, and I’ve always felt relief sculpture was something a little bit tangential to the rest of the sculpture area. 

“It’s all around London if you just look up and, historically, it’s a way of telling narratives used by the Egyptians, Romans and Greeks.

“I really enjoy the technical challenge and creating stories within the work.”

Dot is based at Art Hub Studios in Creekside
Dot is based at Art Hub Studios in Creekside – image Matt Grayson

It is a stark contrast to her commercial work, which has included making heads of political leaders such as Barack Obama for Oxfam.

“That work can be really fun and I like working for organisations that are making a difference,” said Dot.

“But it is fast and furious and I have to produce it to a high standard.

“What I really love about the relief work is that I don’t put a time limit on it. It will take as long as it takes to get it right. 

“When you spend that time laboriously doing it again and again, it’s very meditative but it also speaks of slowing down and spending quality time doing something that’s hopefully, valuable.”

Each piece starts with lots of drawing and collaging to come up with a design, which is then transferred to a wooden board.

From there, Dot hand sculpts the design using polymer clay, which doesn’t dry out quickly – meaning she can spend several days or weeks on each piece.

Once the sculpting is finished, she makes a mould of the piece and casts it. She then sculpts out any imperfections and moulds and casts again.

“That makes it a very flexible process with lots more opportunities to add, take away and change it along the way and have a wider variety of outcomes,” said Dot.

“Sometimes it can be really frustrating. If it’s a really complex one, I do sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed if I can’t get it to work. 

“But I know from experience that I just have to walk away, leave it and then come back to it. 

“It’s definitely not a simple, linear process. Sometimes I do a drawing I think will work in relief, but then it doesn’t.”

“The work can’t just be decorative – I’m not really interested in that,” added Dot, who runs sculptural workshops and classes with Action For Refugees in Lewisham and has created experiential sculptural work for dementia-suffering residents in care homes.

“It’s got to have something that’s either powerful in its symbolism or be beautifully mathematical and geometric. 

“I love Islamic art because it relates to the universe and secret geometry.

“That’s been a big influence.”

Dot's croton seed sculpture honours Wangari
Dot’s croton seed sculpture honours Wangari – image Matt Grayson

Born in Edinburgh, Dot was introduced to the joy of objects and making by her father, a mechanical engineer, who was at the forefront of developing lasers.

After studying sculpture in Sheffield, she moved to London and was swept up in the 1990s era of shared housing, cooperatives and artist squats.

She then spent time in Africa, sculpting across Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and in the Tenganenge Sculpture village in Zimbabwe, which is another reason for her interest in Wangari Maathai.

Dot has already sculpted a panel inspired by the environmentalist featuring a croton seed, associated with the Kenyan reforestation programme and the African fabric associated with Wangari.

She is now working on a larger panel for the Craft In Focus event at Hever Castle in Kent (Sept 8-11, 2022), which will feature, hummingbirds, naturally.

“It will make a larger statement about her narrative – about how you can make a difference, no matter how small the effort you make,” said Dot.

“People that genuinely have an awareness of the environment are drawn to this work.

“There’s quite a limited audience when you’re doing really specialist installation pieces, whereas the work I do now is more commercial so I feel the audience is wider. 

“Communicating with more people means I have a bigger voice, which I’m really enjoying. 

“When people ask what it’s about then I really get to talk about the state of the planet and how my work is motivated by the concerns we have – but not in a negative way, kind of a celebratory way.”

Read more: How Unifi.id can help building owners cut carbon

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- Laura Enfield is a regular contributor to Wharf Life, writing about a wide range of subjects across Docklands and east London 
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Canary Wharf: How Lothar Götz’s works bring depth to Canary Wharf’s Pride Month

Artist’s three installations celebrate LGBTQIA+ culture and achievements across the estate in June

Lothar stands in front of part of his work Electro-Rainbow
Lothar stands in front of part of his work Electro-Rainbow

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People walking down the Riverside Steps from Westferry Circus may not notice them at all.

Those turning round or going up might take them for a pleasing geometric arrangement of brightly coloured shapes.

Few, it’s fair to say, will immediately associate the pink triangles with the Nazis’ persecution of gay and bisexual men and transgender women.

“They were made to wear pink triangles in the concentration camps,” said artist Lothar Götz, who created the artwork, titled Upbeat for Canary Wharf’s celebration of Pride Month in June.

“When I was in my 20s, we all discovered what happened in Nazi Germany.

“As a gay man, I would most likely have ended up in a camp and that was quite a daunting thing to understand.

“That was why in the 1980s we were wearing pink triangles as a reference to what happened. 

“I like pink as a colour, it’s important to me and very much linked to the gay identity and while I didn’t want to make a piece that singled that colour out, if people notice it as a reference that clearly celebrates the LGBTQIA+ community’s achievements then that is great.”

It’s that broad mission that spells out the scope of three works Lothar has created on the estate after being commissioned by Canary Wharf to mark Pride.

His other two pieces – Jump and Elector-Rainbow – can be found on the Reuters Plaza steps up to One Canada Square and in Crossrail Place.

Lothar sits surrounded by the triangles of his piece Upbeat
Lothar sits surrounded by the triangles of his piece Upbeat

All three use colours drawn from the Progress Pride Flag, a symbol created in 2018 that builds on the traditional rainbow to embrace the wider LGBTQIA+ community.

Forest Gate resident Lothar, who works from a studio in Stratford, first visited Canary Wharf as a student when only One Canada Square and a collection of comparatively low-rise buildings had been constructed. 

“That was long before I moved here – there were only a few tower blocks, but it’s always been an area that’s fascinated me,” he said.

“In those days it felt very artificial so it’s interesting to see how it’s becoming more and more lively all the time.

“When I first moved to London and saw Canary Wharf again, I couldn’t have dreamt that it might be a space where I could do a site-specific installation.

“When I was a child, growing up in Grünsberg in Bavaria, I didn’t know the word for being gay – it didn’t really exist there.

“Then later there was the idea of coming out and I didn’t know what that was either – gay culture was something that very much only happened in gay bars. 

“Moving from a provincial town to a city where you could go and actually meet people who were like you was fantastic – that this was normal was such a major achievement. 

“I got married six years ago at Chelsea Town Hall and I found it tough going down those iconic steps – it was so emotional. 

A Wharfer walks past Electro-Rainbow at Crossrail Place
A Wharfer walks past Electro-Rainbow at Crossrail Place

“That you have installations like this celebrating Pride, in places like Canary Wharf, which are associated with power and money  is quite amazing – it’s so important for the whole LGBTQIA+ movement.

“When I was shown the steps and places they wanted me to create pieces for, I honestly couldn’t believe it.

“That it would be possible for me to make work in celebration of Pride in these locations, where people would be going up and down, doing their business and it would be part of normality, well I found that very touching.”

Lothar began his career as a student of aesthetics before moving to London to study painting at the Royal College Of Art.

Inspired by a childhood love of building sites as Bauhaus-style dwellings were erected in the town he grew up in, his work has often related to, or been directly applied to, architecture.

“I found those bungalows especially interesting when they were not finished,” he said. “As soon as they were, they were just living spaces, not the abstract fantasy spaces I’d used them as.

Lotar sits amid his work Jump at Reuters Plaza Steps
Lotar sits amid his work Jump at Reuters Plaza Steps

“That has informed my later work, including the pieces I’ve created in Canary Wharf.

“I try to highlight the spaces themselves – the steps, for example, are not just functional. With the colours it’s a bit like the effect of a red carpet for a specific event – you change the space and it’s that quality that interests me.

“It’s similar to the way flags and bunting for the Jubilee change a village green into something different.”

Lothar said the quality of the pieces he produced for Pride was of fundamental concern to him.

“I always want to leave how people respond to my works pretty open,” he said. “I wanted to do a series of serious artworks that were somewhere in between being immediately identifiable as works for Pride and simply art in their own right. 

“I think that when you look at them, you notice that the colours are Pride colours, but it was also important to me to say that people aren’t just gay in June. 

“There are still hurdles in life for LGBTQIA+ people – perhaps not as many as there were but they are still there.

“I hope people pause and think a little bit, that I’ve created something that’s subtle. That’s why the darker elements are in the work.

“My work is abstract, but it always has stories behind it. Electro-Rainbow, for example responds to the large panels it is on – the architecture.

“But the kaleidoscope of the colours makes reference to club culture – the dancing, the lights and the colours – which has been very important in the history of gay liberation, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s. 

Lothar's Upbeat at Riverside Steps near Westferry Circus
Lothar’s Upbeat at Riverside Steps near Westferry Circus

Jump is about the jumps in progress that have been made – the steps it is on are quite big but they’re still dwarfed by One Canada Square above them.

“It’s a reminder that as a gay man I still need a safe space because it’s still a big thing to come out, but that there have been these jumps.

“My love and relationship have a completely different level of acceptance now than would have been possible when I had my first relationship.

Upbeat is really a response to the architecture and takes the pyramid on top of One Canada Square as one of its dominant elements.

“But again, you have those Progress Pride Flag colours and the lozenge shapes that are similar to the facade of Newfoundland and the blue and white lozenges on the Bavarian flag, which is where I’m originally from.

“That is an abstraction of the shapes the clouds make.

“With this piece, I wanted to describe the feeling you get when you step off the boat and walk up that stairway to Heaven. It’s very beautiful.”

  • Lothar’s works are on show in Canary Wharf until the end of June, 2022, as part of the estate’s wider celebration of Pride Month.

Read more: Find out how mudlark Nicola White makes art from her finds

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Woolwich: How Tideline Art’s Nicola White digs up treasure from the Thames mud

How one former banking PA turned artist rediscovered her childhood love of found things

Artist Nicola White on the Thames foreshore
Artist Nicola White on the Thames foreshore – image James Perrin

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BY LAURA ENFIELD

The tide is high when I speak to Nicola White.

It’s a matter of small consequence to most Londoners, but to the 53-year-old mudlarker, it’s from the rise and fall of the waters that life emerges.

The Woolwich resident remembers two very distinct desires from her childhood in Cornwall – to never, ever work as a boring secretary and to have her own shed where all her treasures could be displayed.

As a young girl, she avidly combed the beaches and land, collecting shells, driftwood, bits of rope, mushrooms, toadstools, seedpods and eggshells.

“It’s something I have always enjoyed doing – using things I’ve found in artworks,” said Nicola.

“Life happens and, when I became a teenager, I lost interest and went and lived in France and then had my first child pretty young at 22 – everything was on hold, because I had to work.

“I did a bilingual secretarial course because I speak fluent French and then worked as a PA for banks in Paris and London.”

Nicola uses her finds to make art
Nicola uses her finds to make art – image James Perrin

For 25 years, Nicola found herself doing a job she had vowed to avoid. While it brought her a comfortable life, money to buy a flat, security for her son and later her daughter, she never loved it.

“I was at the mercy of my choices for quite a while,” she said. “I was very good at my job, but I had this feeling it wasn’t what life was all about.

“I had this burning desire to create and make art and just be outside. I couldn’t ignore this thing in me.

“That said, I wanted to share my passion with other people and make the most of my life. I tried to ignore it but I was getting more miserable.”

She already knew the answer lay outside her door on the banks of the Thames.

When Nicola moved to London in 1999 she was almost immediately attracted to the river because it reminded her of her childhood in Truro.

“One day I was in Greenwich and the tide was low and there were these steps leading down to this long stretch of beach,” she said.

“I was just drawn to go down there and found this really peaceful world away from all my worries and my job.”

She started finding pieces of broken pottery and glass and used them to create art, just like she did as a child. Eventually she spotted her first coin.

It was then she discovered what she was doing had a name – mudlarking – the practice of scavenging through river mud for lost items of value or historical significance – this was a pastime enjoyed by a handful of Londoners back then.

But it has grown in popularity thanks to a blossoming online community, in which Nicola plays a large part.

She works under the name Tideline Art and has a YouTube channel with 135,000 subscribers where she documents her finds, broadcasting to 30,000 followers on Twitter and Instagram.

One of Nicola's pieces
One of Nicola’s pieces – image James Perrin

She also has a thriving business selling the art she crafts from the items she pulls from the mud. 

Her glass fish, which she puts up for sale twice a year, go for around £250 each and typically sell out within 24 hours.

Later this year she will be giving a series of talks as part of the Totally Thames Festival.

“Mudlarking is such a part of my life I can’t imagine not doing it,” said Nicola. She took the plunge eight years ago, aged 45, quit her job and rented out her flat to embrace the mudlarking life full time.

“I had been doing it for about 15 years – making art in my spare time and I suddenly thought: ‘I want to see if I can do something I love with my life’.

“I was very nervous of leaving banking, but I was building up Tideline Art on social media and my website and things gradually came together. 

“I think if you follow something you are really passionate about and put all your energies into it, then doors start to open up for you.”

Today she has a studio at her home in Woolwich filled with hundreds of treasures she has found over the years, including a silver half crown from Elizabeth I’s reign and a wax seal stamp that belonged to the Commodore Superintendant of Woolwich Dockyards .

“A while ago I was sitting in this room and thought – ‘Wow this is actually what I dreamed of as a child – it really fills me with joy’,” said Nicola.

Nicola also makes historic finds, including this 18th century onion bottle -
Nicola also makes historic finds, including this 18th century onion bottle – image James Perrin

She can be found on the foreshore as early as 6am and as late as 11pm, up to four times a week, looking for treasure. 

“It’s very hard not to go because you think you might miss out on something,” she said.

“That’s the thing about mudlarking – you simply don’t know what you are going to find and that’s what keeps you going back.”

Her love of naval and industrial history means Greenwich, Deptford and the Isle Of Dogs are her favourite areas to go, kitted out in sturdy boots and knee pads with her trowel and phone at the ready to document any finds.

“You need patience and persistence,” said Nicola. “People might think you just stroll down to the Thames and come back with lots of bounty without any effort.

“What people don’t see are the hours you go down and don’t come back with anything. 

“I get people asking where to go to find clay pipes, but mudlarks don’t give locations away because that is part of it – you have to go down and find out for yourselves. There’s no quick fix.

 “I have never met anyone who isn’t inspired by this idea that you can find and hold history in your hands. It’s accessible to everybody.”

There are negative aspects though. The mud can be dirty, smelly and full of rubbish – particularly plastic – and, more recently, face masks. It can be dangerous too.

“I got stuck in the mud once,” said Nicola. “Luckily someone was with me, but it really was quite scary and gave me a new respect for the mud.

“The tides can rush up and you have to make sure you know where your exits are, because there are pinch points where you can get cut off.”

Another of Nicola's fish sculptures
Another of Nicola’s fish sculptures – image James Perrin

Nicola mostly mudlarks alone as she enjoys the meditative aspect of it, but she said there was a strong sense of camaraderie in the community. 

“It can be competitive but also supportive – people will help you identify your finds and share information,” she said.

More important items do not get used in her art, but are researched and featured on her channels. Rarer items have to be reported to the authorities.

“You have to have a permit to mudlark from the Port Of London Authority,” said Nicola.

“One of the responsibilities we have is to report any find that is over 300 years old, or ones that are historically significant, to the Museum Of London and they put them into a database. 

“It’s really not the financial value. If you are going into mudlarking for that, then forget it. It’s about the story behind the finds for any genuine mudlarker. I like to think of the Thames as a giant liquid storybook.”

So in all those hours on the foreshore has she ever let anything slip through her fingers?

“I don’t think I’ve ever lost anything but one day I would like to throw something in for someone to find in 300 years,” she said. “I wonder what they’d find out about me? It makes me think of my own story.”

And that’s the truth of mudlarking. Everything and everyone has a story to tell.

Treasures rescued from the mud -
Treasures rescued from the mud – image James Perrin

Read more: Enjoy an extract from London Clay by Tom Chivers

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Canary Wharf: Discover Patricia Volk’s vibrant clay sculptures with Cornucopia

Artist’s mid-career retrospective at One Canada Square brings more than 40 of her works together

Artist Patricia Volk with some of her pieces
Artist Patricia Volk with some of her pieces – image Matt Grayson

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“It annoys me slightly when someone describes me as a ceramicist or a ceramic sculptor, because I don’t think the fact I’m working with ceramics has anything to do with the pieces I produce,” said artist Patricia Volk.

“I have no interest in doing glazes or anything like that – I’m not a potter.

“I also have no interest in repeating things – I like to keep changing and developing. I like things to look as though they’re slightly unsteady, as if you would have to put your hand underneath them to stop them falling over.”

Cornucopia, a mid-career retrospective featuring more than 40 of her sculptures, is currently filling the lobby of One Canada Square in Canary Wharf.

The exhibition, which will remain in place until June 10, 2022, is free to visit and open every day.

The brightly coloured forms, often twisted and curled in on themselves, present a stark contrast to the marbled hues of the tower’s ground floor space.

“When I’m making the piece, I never think of how people might respond at the other end,” said Patricia.

“But I would like to think that people would enjoy seeing them, and maybe that the work would give them something to think about as well.

“I hope people are moved and might pick things up that I might have been thinking about subliminally. There is a series of pieces called Source – very simple forms – that I really liked doing.

“They’re a contradiction with the totem pole pieces, which are quite complicated, because they are very simple forms with a drip.

“They have to be made properly because the drip won’t go where it’s supposed to if they aren’t – I can’t tell you how much satisfaction I get from doing those drips.”

As we talk, it becomes clear there’s a real connection in Patricia’s life between the work she creates and her own and others’ reactions to it.

Born in Belfast, she wanted to be an artist from an early age.

More than 40 of Patricia's works are on display
More than 40 of Patricia’s works are on display – image Matt Grayson

“It was what I always wanted to do – I can remember when someone asked me when I was five years old what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said I wanted to be an artist,” she said.

“My father was a member of the Ulster Arts Club and, when my mother wanted to get rid of me on a Sunday morning, I was packed off there.

“I remember walking around and looking at the paintings on the walls and the beautiful sculptures. It was a fantastic place and it was something to aspire to, definitely.

“I’m very dyslexic – I can remember starting school at the beginning, drawing a picture of a wedding and my teacher calling in another teacher to have a look at what I’d done – that’s where all my self-esteem came from. 

“I was completely obsessed with drawing – people would come up and ask me to draw a picture. I always won the prizes.”

With no portfolio, however, art college was an impossibility and Patricia got a job in the textile industry before moving to London at the age of 17.

Again unable to get into art college – something she admits would have been a remote possibility for someone of her age – she nevertheless found work and stayed.

“It was when everybody believed that London was the most exciting place and two of my friends decided to leave home,” said Patricia.

“We were very, very young, and I thought I’d just do that as well. My mother was delighted to see me go and I just stayed.

“Things happened, circumstances happened. I got a job very quickly here and I got married very young and had a child.

“I came over in the April and the Troubles started in the August.Then there was no going back.

“It was a bad time, but people here were very kind to me. I got a job as a typist and then went to work in advertising and met my husband.

“The group he was with had all been to art college – they’d done film and TV.

“Then, one night, in my mid-30s, after 16 years of not drawing, I picked up a pencil and thought that I could still do it.

Patricia's early work focussed on heads
Patricia’s early work focussed on heads – image Matt Grayson

“I said to someone that I had always wanted to go to art college, so I took a year out, went to adult education classes at the Camden Institute and Islington Institute, and did life drawing and clay modelling. 

“I remember someone walking in and seeing a figure I had done, and saying that I’d got something – that I could do it, and it gave me such pleasure.

“Looking back, there’s always been someone who has said something like that when my confidence has been at its lowest, to pick me up and make me look forward.

“In that year out I got a portfolio together, applied to Middlesex Poly because someone said I had to do a foundation course.

“I went to a party and someone asked what I was doing, and I said that I wanted to go to art college but I’d never get in because I was shit, and they got my address, got an application, sent it off and, although my husband said I’d never get in, I did, and that day was the happiest day of my life.

“For the first time, I hadn’t told any lies about my qualifications and I’d got in because of what was in my portfolio.

“So then I started my education at Middlesex Poly, and went on to do three-dimensional design. After I’d done my degree it was my mindset to go out and earn a living.”

And to a certain extent, that’s what she did.

Constantly altering and changing her approach she’s progressed from making monumental heads to writhing coloured forms and vibrant totem poles.

Recognised as a Royal West Of England Academician and a fellow of the Royal Society Of Sculptors, her work can be found in numerous private, national and international collections including the Swindon Museum And Art Gallery.

Perhaps her success can partly be explained by the forces and inspirations at work within her pieces, absorbed throughout her life.

She said: “As a trainee designer in Belfast, the lady who ran the company had come from Vienna with absolutely nothing and had certain ways of doing things.

“She taught me how to do patterns so no material was wasted. Even now when I roll out a big slab of clay I’m thinking ‘100% economy’. 

“It’s interesting how the things that happen to you when you’re a lot younger have such a dramatic effect.

“What’s important to me about my work is that it keeps me sane when I’m feeling down in the dumps. 

“It’s fascinating that pieces I’ve done which people find uplifting may have been done when I’ve been feeling depressed.”

Patricia's pieces are made from clay and often hollow
Patricia’s pieces are made from clay and often hollow – image Matt Grayson

Read more: Ian Berry set to create denim artwork for Canary Wharf

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Deptford: Why Art In Perpetuity Trust is seeking up to five new trustees

Charity aims to build resilient organisation for the future to operate studios and gallery space

APT in Deptford is looking for new trustees
APT in Deptford is looking for new trustees

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We are practising ‘artist-led’ as a reality, not just terminology – we are living and breathing creative independence and that’s something we strive for in perpetuity, just as our name says.”

In a nutshell, that’s APT, as described by its administrative director, Sarah Walsh.  

The Art In Perpetuity Trust operates from, and indeed owns outright, a former textile warehouse on the banks of Deptford Creek, a complex that houses 42 artists’ studios, a thriving gallery, a performance space and a working sculpture garden off Creekside. 

But it’s much more than just a landlord, it’s a potent, creative community and, following a period of evaluation and reflection during the pandemic, the charity that runs it is reaching out to recruit new trustees to help it continue to deliver its mission, namely to support creative thought and artistic vision both in the studio and the wider world.

APT administrative director Sarah Walsh
APT administrative director Sarah Walsh

“APT was set up 20 years ago by a group of artists who were looking to find new studios after they were forced to move from their previous home,” said Sarah. 

“They made an arrangement with the guy who was selling the building to slowly purchase the freehold over a period of time and then transformed the legal structure of the organisation into a charity.

“It’s not just a studio complex, it’s a space for interaction, for the exchange of ideas – it’s a community and it’s been created that way purposefully to provide support for those who have left education and want a space that isn’t isolated but alongside their peers.”

Now APT is seeking up to five new trustees to bolster the charity’s board who will work alongside the committees of artists resident on-site that drive its activities and direction.

Sarah said: “We are looking for people who can provide a range of skills and experience in five areas to ensure we remain a resilient organisation for the future.

“We’d like an artist or curator with an excellent industry profile, a legal expert with understanding of charity, property and employment law, someone with public sector experience and knowledge of local communities in south London, a trustee with a background in fundraising and income generation and a financial professional with a knowledge of the charitable sector.

APT owns its own building outright in Deptford
APT owns its own building outright in Deptford

“Trustees bring different voices, skillsets and experiences to the table that we can use to help build partnerships, communicate what we’re doing and maintain our resilience as they govern the charity.

“We have a unique structure here – the committees of artists don’t work independently, we all work in unison to run APT together.”

Trustees meet six times a year in addition to attending the charity’s AGM. Attendance at various private views and events will also be expected.

Sarah said: “As an organisation we’re always thinking about diversity, equality and inclusion and that includes the way in which we recruit trustees. 

“It’s important to us to be accessible and transparent and to reach out as widely as possible to attract a range of people who can represent APT successfully. 

“We’re a little nugget in Deptford with the most wonderful community – anyone coming in as a trustee will experience that.”

  • The deadline for applications to become a trustee is May 30, 2022

WHAT THE TRUSTEES SAY

  • “Being a trustee means you can see the direct impact and valuing of your skills and experience to make a positive difference to the lives of others in the local community. It opens up a whole new world of networks and creative possibilities on your doorstep.”

Jenny White, co-chair, APT Trustee

  • “Being a Trustee allows you to contribute your skills and knowledge to the development of an organic and creative organisation. You gain valuable experience being part of the  contemporary art scene and wider Deptford community. Besides, it’s fascinating to be engaging with artists and their diverse practices.”

Ann Gilmore, co-chair, APT Trustee

APT's gallery space on Creekside in Deptford
APT’s gallery space on Creekside in Deptford

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canary Wharf: How Ian Berry is set to create a new artwork from donated denim

The Poplar-based artist’s piece will be unveiled on the estate for World Environment Day on June 5

Artist Ian Berry, pictured surrounded by jeans in Cabot Square
Artist Ian Berry, pictured surrounded by jeans in Cabot Square

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Artist Ian Berry wants his work to be seen in real life – so apologies to anyone reading the this.

These reproductions might give you an idea of the kind of pieces he creates, but 2D reproductions on paper or digital screens just don’t cut it.

Based in Poplar, but hailing from Huddersfield via High Wycombe, Australia, Sweden and the Netherlands, the constant in Ian’s life is also his medium – denim.

Cutting, layering and gluing, he creates images and installations using a palette of jeans, constantly pushing to make the material accurately depict all manner of scenes, lighting effects, substances and surfaces.

The reason you’re looking at one of the pieces from Ian’s Behind Closed Doors series is that he’s just embarked on a project in partnership with Canary Wharf Group.

With used clothes donated at Jubilee Place last week, he’ll be stripping out the denim and using it to create an artwork, which will be unveiled on World Environment Day – June 5.

Detail for one of Ian's pieces for his Behind Closed Doors series
Detail for one of Ian’s pieces for his Behind Closed Doors series

“My work needs to be seen in real life to be understood,” said Ian, who works from a studio overlooking the Limehouse Cut canal.

“I don’t really feel like a real artist to those who haven’t seen my work in that way.

“I’d spent the pandemic having seven different shows in other countries – most of them solo and that was tough with all the quarantines and shipping issues.

“I’d just got back from Chile when I got an email from Canary Wharf asking about this project.

“At first I thought it would be great just because I could walk there rather than having to take pieces on aeroplanes.

“I walk through the estate when I catch the Jubilee line, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to get my work seen by more people in real life.

“But it also sounded interesting because of the estate’s sustainability credentials – it’s something that’s taken very seriously whereas some other places just use it for marketing. I’ve not spoken much about sustainability in the context of my work.

“Others have – as recycling or upcycling – but when I started 16 years ago it wasn’t the buzzword it is now.

“The project I’m doing with Canary Wharf Group reflects sustainability and the environment – denim’s terrible in its impact at the end of the day – but there are also good things happening in the industry.

“I don’t believe there’s a material that better reflects contemporary times, good or bad.”

Detail from Ian's Secret Garden
Detail from Ian’s Secret Garden

That really is the crux of things for Ian. While we talk it becomes clear there are all sorts of tensions at work between the artist, his medium and the subjects he chooses.

He tells me denim stands for freedom, democracy and the West to the point where it was banned in Russia and Belarus, where it’s still worn symbolically by dissenters.

Then again, it’s also the clothing of capitalism, excess and greed, with designer jeans selling for astronomical sums.

“I’m interested in people and in the denim industry, in workers’ rights,” said Ian. “I know everyone in the sector and there’s a lot of greenwashing going on – a lot of lying and they even tell me what their lies and exaggerations are. It’s frustrating.”

While Ian’s pieces are necessarily shot through with such issues – how noble attempts to pass on clothing to do good can come unstuck as second-hand garments wind up flooding foreign markets or simply get dumped overseas, for example – the denim he uses is also, importantly, just the stuff he uses to capture the world.

“I use it literally as my paint to represent contemporary life and issues you see every day,” he said.

“I have struggled for 16 years to know what to call them –  they’re not paintings, they’re collages, but using just one medium.

“In some there are 16 layers of denim, so they are very sculptural, 3D pieces, and they can be very effective, with the texture of the denim as well. All that gets lost if people look on their phones or laptops.

“The magic in my work is finding the gradients in the denim, the fades, the cat’s whiskers – where it goes from indigo to lighter shades. You can connect them together and get quite a photo-realistic piece.

“Sometimes I achieve that too well and people don’t realise it’s jeans, but you need that ‘aha’ factor for people to connect.

“It happens in America especially, where people look for a while and then get closer and closer and, at about 50cm away, they say: ‘Oh, my God, it’s blue jeans’. I don’t want it to be seen as a gimmick, though.

“I hope people appreciate the craft, the love and attention to detail and they are amazed that the piece is made out of denim.

“I do set myself technical challenges – how to depict shiny, metallic objects or water using this matt material. But the main thing is the subject.

“With the Behind Closed Doors series I wanted to depict this busy city we’re living in, which can be lonely. 

“That really connected with people – two out of three were saying: ‘Wow, that’s me’ – and it was kind of special.”

Detail from The Game by Ian Berry
Detail from The Game by Ian Berry

Ian, whose granddad was from east London, said he wasn’t sure what kind of piece he would create from the jeans donated in Canary Wharf.

He said: “Hopefully the piece I create will cause discussion and make people think. 

“I can’t give too much away at this stage in case the idea changes but I think it’s going to have an element of my hanging Secret Garden, which turns plants into cotton, into jeans and then back into plants again. 

“There’s a nod to sustainability in that – it’s nice because we can make something permanent out of the jeans. 

“If you wear a pair for 10 years and then throw them away, it might be just about OK, but now we have a world where people buy them, wear them two or three times and throw them out.”

Ian’s piece will be added to the Wharf’s permanent art collection.

Detail from The Roosevelt, LA, by Ian Berry
Detail from The Roosevelt, LA, by Ian Berry

Read more: Find out where to make your own cloth with Freeweaver Saori Studio

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Leamouth: Typewriter artist James Cook set for Trinity Buoy Wharf exhibition

Workshops will also be on offer for those who want to have a go at typing out their own pieces

James Cook will be showing his artwork at Trinity Buoy Wharf

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When I was a young child, my parents gave me an old typewriter to play with. I loved hitting the keys, hearing that distinctive, hypnotic clacking sound, twisting the knob that made the roller revolve. 

But I couldn’t really comprehend what it was for. Even though this was the 1980s, by the time I came of age to make marks on paper, computer keyboards had already replaced the old mechanical machines with their inky ribbons and staccato rhythms. Fun for a kid – a relic of a bygone age, perhaps – but nothing more.

It’s fortunate James Cook didn’t have that experience.

While studying A-Level art in 2014, he developed an interest in inventive ways to make marks, drawn to David Hockney’s iPad paintings.

“Then I came across Paul Smith, who had used typewriters,” said James. “What really caught my attention was his story.

“Born in 1921, he suffered with cerebral palsy his whole life. At the age of 11, his parents gave him a typewriter because he couldn’t hold a pencil.

“But, instead of writing, he ended up creating drawings, which was his passion. He only learnt to speak and walk as an adult, but at the age of 11 he was already creating these amazing pictures – drawings of the Mona Lisa and it fascinated me that it was even possible to do such a thing.

“Immediately after I had read about him, I started trawling around charity shops trying to find a typewriter – at first without much success.

“Then an elderly couple in one of the shops overheard that I was looking for a typewriter and told me that they had one belonging to the man’s late mother.

“It had been sitting in the attic for about 40 years, not being used, and they suggested that I could come round and collect it.”

After a few squirts of WD40, James got the mid 1950s Oliver Courier going and began to experiment.

“I was lucky I picked that typewriter up and that I didn’t give up straight away,” he said. “As time has gone on, I’ve discovered that there are some models that just don’t work for this kind of work.

“But what I had was a very expensive, very mechanically precise machine. If this hadn’t been the case I might not have stuck with it.”

They include landscapes and portraits
They include landscapes and portraits

Perseverance paid off however and James now makes his living generating work on his collection of 40 typewriters, painstakingly using them to tap out artwork, either from life or photographs.

It’s exacting work, with drawings typically taking between a week and a month to complete.

“Usually the typewriters have 44 keys, so I have those parameters to work within and choosing the characters to use is one of the most interesting parts of making these drawings,” said James.

“I’ve been doing this for about seven years now, mostly part-time, and more recently full-time, and I’ve learnt by trial and error which particular character works.

“If I’m drawing a portrait, and I need to recreate someone’s skin complexion, most people want to be seen in the best light, so even skin tones require a character that has a large surface area, like the ‘@’ symbol.

“That’s also good for shading, which can be achieved by hitting the key more softly.

“If someone has dimples or freckles, then I might use some asterisks, because it’s a much sharper mark, whereas the underscore is a perfect shape for drawing horizontal lines in an architectural drawing, like the bottom of a window sill, or doing brickwork.

“Achieving curves is very difficult, especially if you’re working across multiple sheets, because they all have to line up.

“Typewriters inherently want to go from left to right so they’re great for straight lines, but not so good for verticals and curves.

“So what I’m doing is using my left hand to ever so slightly twist the paragraph lever by a minuscule amount while I’m typing to create a curve, like the roof of The O2, for example.

“I can’t think of any other way of drawing that requires you to use both hands in this way. Your right hand is on the keys and your left hand is responsible for making sure you stamp that mark on a very precise point.

“Once it’s been made that’s it, there’s no way of undoing it – I won’t use Tippex so mistakes become part of the drawing.

Every drawing is made by painstakingly typing to make marks
Every drawing is made by painstakingly typing to make marks

From April 1-10, the largest ever exhibition of James’ work ever gathered together is set to be held at Trinity Buoy Wharf, with many of the pieces created at the east London location in Leamouth. Entry is free.

“Visitors will see the biggest collection of my work to date,” said James.

“It’s mostly pieces from London locations, usually drawn on site with views of places like Greenwich Park, the Thames Path and Trinity Buoy Wharf itself.

“What’s also important for the work is to add a second layer of information, so the drawings are not just about piecing together various characters, they also contain concealed messages or hidden lines of text.

“I’ve often done that more recently when I’ve been working on location and I’ve spotted something, or when a thought pops into my head, especially if it’s the middle of winter.

“I did some of the drawings in January and it was pretty cold outside, so a lot of the messages are me complaining how cold it was.”

James draws many of his pieces on location
James draws many of his pieces on location

Every weekday during the exhibition, James will be hosting free workshops for those who’d like to try creating their own typewriter art.

He said: “When people look at my art, usually it’s not enough, they want to know how it’s made.

“The idea is these groups of about five will get to sit in front of a typewriter and have a go.

“It won’t be creating finished masterpieces, but hopefully we’ll have some fun and it will be a start. 

“They can bring along pictures to inspire their typing or I can provide them for reference.”

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Canary Wharf: How Wallace Chan’s Titans sculptures are set to arrive on the estate

The multidisciplinary creator will show a collection of 10 artworks made from titanium and iron

Multidisciplinary creator Wallace Chan
Multidisciplinary creator Wallace Chan

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Cabot Square in Canary Wharf is many things. A place to sit in the sunshine and eat lunch, somewhere to dip a hand in a boisterous fountain and cool off, a spot to relax with food and drink under the plentiful trees.

But it’s also, increasingly, a site of cultural confluence. Not long ago artist Liz West placed Hymn To The Big Wheel nearby for Summer Lights 2021.

The location was almost within earshot of Boisdale, a venue frequented by Horace Andy, who sang the vocal for the Massive Attack track that inspired the work.

Now it’s the turn of Chinese multidisciplinary creator Wallace Chan to be part of a connection. 

His five-metre sculpture Titans XIV is set to be placed in the square as part of his forthcoming exhibition Titans: A Dialogue Between Materials, Space And Time on February 21 and when that happens a loop in time will close.

That’s because it will stand across from Henry Moore’s colossal bronze Draped Seated Woman and, without the English artist’s work as a source of inspiration, it’s likely a showcase of Mr Chan’s work would look very different. 

“Starting at the age of 16 as an apprentice carver, I was working mostly with gemstones – coral, malachite and agate, for example,” he said.

“I had to learn to be very flexible, because stones always yield surprises and you have to adapt to them.

“With agate, for instance, every layer can reveal different patterns and you have to keep modifying your ideas because of the restrictions of the materials.

“I had to constantly compromise to attain a sense of freedom while working with them – that experience taught me that you have to be adaptable, that changing what you’re doing is normal when you’re trying to create something.

“At the start I was using opaque stones but I eventually moved on to transparent or translucent ones.

“That’s when I realised it was about more than working in three dimensions, because of the way the light interacts with the stones and the colours and effects that creates.

“I had this idea that I wanted to chase light and capture shadows using different angles.”

Detail from Titans I by Wallace Chan
Detail from Titans I by Wallace Chan

This deep dedication to his craft has led Mr Chan to become one of the leading jewellery designers of his generation with a career that’s seen him patent the Wallace Cut as a method of carving refracted designs into gemstones themselves. 

His pieces sell for tens of millions of pounds, but when talking to him there’s a sense that he probably isn’t really interested in all of that.

This is a man who, after all, following the death of his mentor in 2001, spent six months on a zen retreat living as a monk – meditating, fasting and tending to the sick and the dying – emerging to state: “I realised that the ability to dream and create was my way of life. I dream, therefore I exist. I create, so I live.”

For Mr Chan his creativity is now and has always been inextricably linked with the materials he works with.

“Even when I was primarily using gemstones, I was already exploring,” he said. “It’s always about the nature of materials, time and space.

“What I am doing today comes from what I did in the past – that will always be the foundation of what I’m going to create.

“While I was focused on jewellery making I became tired of just using gold, silver and platinum. I was constantly looking for new materials.

“I first read about titanium in a newspaper article and spent about eight years figuring out how to incorporate it into my work.

“When I succeeded, it became the embodiment of my jewellery. But I also had a feeling that, like humans, materials should grow – I wanted to find ways to make larger pieces.

“That’s when I went back to a memory I had from 1986, when I went to see an exhibition of work by Henry Moore in Hong Kong. It was huge – there was a lot of fuss about it, so I went to see these sculptures.

“I was really surprised because they were so large. When I was working with gemstones I’d sometimes make carvings the size of a fist, which I thought then were too big.

“But Henry Moore had used metal to create really large works – that was a seed in my mind, a moment of inspiration but at that time I knew nothing about casting.

“Then about 20 years later, I started to use iron, bronze and stainless steel to create works. They weren’t as big as Moore’s pieces, but they were bigger than my jewellery. 

“I felt something wasn’t right with them, though – I was looking for a material that would reflect the spirit of the times, something contemporary and futuristic.

“So titanium became the natural metal to work with – it’s way more long-lasting and so it was the perfect material to create something more monumental with.”

Mr Chan's work will be in Canary Wharf until April 8
Mr Chan’s work will be in Canary Wharf until April 8

Mr Chan’s exhibition in Canary Wharf, which is free to visit and runs until April 8 with the majority of the work placed in One Canada Square, is an opportunity to see the fruits of his intentions.

Curated by James Putnam, it features 10 pieces in total, many juxtaposing impervious titanium with the russet tones of oxidising iron as a meditation on time and its varying effects on different materials.

Three of the works – Titans XIV, XV and XVI have never been displayed publicly before.

“The five-metre sculpture – Titans XIV, which will be in Cabot Square – is about not having a sense of space or time or consciousness,” said Mr Chan.

“It’s about mindfulness, that nothing exists except the moment. It was a big surprise to learn it would be displayed near Draped Seated Woman – Moore is someone whose work I greatly admire.

“I was so shocked and inspired by what I saw at his exhibition in 1986 and I’ve always appreciated his work, but I wouldn’t have ever considered something like this could happen back then.

“I cannot explain it but I feel like some divine power is at work and I can’t thank James and Canary Wharf Group enough for this opportunity.

“I’ve always felt that I’m between cultures. I go to temples, but I also go to churches. I admire sculptures made in the east and also in the west.

“The first pieces I really got to know were the works by Michelangelo so I am influenced by all kinds of things.

Detail from Titans V by Wallace Chan
Detail from Titans V by Wallace Chan

“Putting titanium and iron together in my sculptures is a way of combining the most futuristic and the most traditional materials I could find. They make a bridge between past and future.

“Greek mythology has also played a huge role in my works. I found great meaning in these ancient stories so they have always been an inspiration to me.

“When I was carving the winged horse Pegasus I would think about speed and force and I’d try to capture those elements in my work.

“We know the stories of the Titans – the punishments and the fights among the gods – but I really wanted to capture the beauty of them with these sculptures.”

This idea of forming a connection between two places is also present in another way in several of his Titans sculptures.

“When it comes to iron, it’s interesting,” he said. “We’ve known about it as a material for 5,000 years – it’s always been a part of our lives, our architecture, our tools and in our daily routines.

“But I remember when I was a child and my father was teaching me how to write the Chinese character that means craft and work. It looks like a capital I, the most common kind of iron beam.

“He told me it was like the sky on top, the earth underneath and the humans standing in the middle between the two.

Detail from Titans III by Wallace Chan
Detail from Titans III by Wallace Chan

“It means that as a person you have to stand on your feet and you have to be grounded. Secondly that you have to reach for the sky and that you have to understand you’re a bridge between the two. That’s why I use it in the structure of my works.

“When people are looking at any of my sculptures I want them to know that it’s always a projection of themselves. People should ask themselves if they are discovering or being discovered?

“It might look to them like there is light and that there are shapes and forms, but in a way they’re communicating with what’s in front of them – it’s something mutual.

“If the audience wants to take something away from this exhibition, then I hope it will be the idea that we can always transcend as individuals.

“It is possible to pursue many different roads at the same time, and it’s always fine to go from one scale to another – you can always be multi-disciplinary. Knowledge can be shared among different sorts of creations.

“I started carving 50 years ago and I’ve never stopped trying to expand the materials I use or the scale of my work and I work on many different projects all at once.”

Read more: How Potters Thumb can help you play with clay

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Woolwich: How Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair continues to evolve

Lizzie Glendinning talks art, factory spaces and continuing to deliver work people can easily own

Print Fair co-founder Lizzie Glendinning
Print Fair co-founder Lizzie Glendinning

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BY LAURA ENFIELD

Shiny golden phalluses are not a conventional start to a business. But why be dull? The glimmering appendages provided the catalyst for the birth of Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair, which is set to return from November 11-18.

It brings 700 original artworks to the area featuring famous names, hot new artists and images of everything from folk tale-inspired etchings, to the naked human form and abstract pieces created using control and chance.

“We were invited to bring a cultural activity to Woolwich as a one off,” said Lizzie Glendinning who founded the Fair in 2016 with artist husband Jack Bullen.

“We installed this quite controversial Italian sculpture by Samuele Sinibaldi in the former Canon Carriage Factory.

“It got people talking as it featured golden phalluses on a tree. People either loved or hated it, but we were invited back nonetheless.”

The couple already ran Brocket Gallery together and had gained attention for their New Collector Evenings, which used original print to encourage people to talk about and buy art.

Inspired by that ethos they ran a Kickstarter fundraising campaign, contacted printmakers they admired and set-up the inaugural fair, with no budget, in two months.

“Filling a huge abandoned former factory was a huge undertaking and we thought original print would be the way because there wasn’t anyone doing that specifically with contemporary work,” said Lizzie.

“The redevelopment of the buildings was something we really wanted to mirror in the history of printmaking, the industrial nature of it and the process.

“Jack and I are big fans of the Venice Biennale. They have used fine art to regenerate old factories. We thought: ‘How come no-one has done this in London because the buildings are just incredible?’.

“One of the reasons we decided to invest in the area was because of Crossrail – my background was working in Mayfair galleries and we wanted to bring the best of that genre here.”

The Arc Of Knowledge by Samuele Sinibaldi
The Arc Of Knowledge by Samuele Sinibaldi

The fair has now usurped their gallery business and takes 12 months to plan. Lizzie will be breaking boundaries again by curating the entire event from more than 300 miles away in Northumberland.

The couple moved there just before the first lockdown and Lizzie is now pregnant with their second child so unable to make the long trip to the capital. 

But in a fortuitous twist, the cancellation of last year’s event means they already have the technology in place. 

“It was a last-minute decision in September 2020 to cancel,” said Lizzie. “Our whole year had gone towards building it and there were lots of people involved and some wanted us to keep going.

“But it would have completely ruined us because we went into lockdown. So we’re really lucky we decided to go online. 

“We worked with a company called Kunstmatrix and were one of the first Fairs to do an interactive walk through design.

“We had a lot of other big fairs calling us to ask about it and people recognised we had done something quite unique.”

Lizzie will use the technology to curate the artworks online and then her team will install them over two days at Woolwich Works. The physical fair is returning with a flourish, taking over the newly restored former Fireworks Factory at Royal Arsenal Riverside.

 “Woolwich has really evolved in the time we have been there,” said Lizzie. “We are going into our third building in six years because the other ones have all been redeveloped – this one is stunning. 

“The abandoned building we were in before was very cool because it had that gritty aesthetic, but when the artworks are of such great quality, it really elevates them to be in this gorgeous building. It’s a fresh start and feels like we have stepped up to a new level.”

Detail from Love Of Seven Dolls Princess by Liorah Tchiprout
Detail from Love Of Seven Dolls Princess by Liorah Tchiprout

Half the fair will be booths curated by specialist galleries and the other half filled with works chosen from an international open call.

As a result, the fair represents around 350 artists directly and takes commission from their sales.

“It’s unique in terms of art fairs, which generally rent booths to galleries so they only give access to artists who are already represented,” said Lizzie. 

“We had about 4,000 applications for the open call and a panel of industry experts, including Gus Casely-Hayford from V&A East and artist Andrew Martin, chose the work.

“It makes it a completely democratic process and a big surprise for us, while keeping it fresh and fair.” 

All the artists who applied are eligible for a new Art In Business scheme, which offers online workshops in marketing as an independent artist, wrapping and packing work, biographies and personal statements.

The fair is also running the Young London Print Prize for the second year, bringing printmaking workshops to 1,000 children in London primary schools including Greenwich, Thamesmead and Hackney.

A panel of sixth form curators will choose a shortlist to showcase at the event, with an awards ceremony on November 11.

Detail from The Caramel Contessa by Toby Holmes
Detail from The Caramel Contessa by Toby Holmes

Lizzie’s own love of print started as a schoolgirl thanks to her art collector father and she wants to share that passion with everyone.

“The risk with the term ‘print’ is people think its just digital and printed off a computer,” she said.

“But there are mediums like etching or lithograph, monotype, so many different styles and textures and technical application of ink or paint. You need to see it in real life to appreciate the layers and paper. If it’s on a screen it’s flat and you don’t see the intricacies or subtleties. 

“The tactile nature is something we have tried to reinforce through the mantra of the fair, which is about the evolution of technical process and pushing the boundaries and reinterpreting these traditional processes.

“A lot of people will come thinking it is like posters and then they will see artists at work and appreciate the technicalities a bit more.”

The fair is laid out with stories and themes for people to follow to help make the event more friendly and engaging.

Detail from The Spirit Of The Three-Piece Pine by Evgeniva Dudnikova
Detail from The Spirit Of The Three-Piece Pine by Evgeniva Dudnikova

“I first did that in 2019 when I had just had a baby,” said Lizzie. “I was really into illustrative art and things that were beautiful for children because I just wanted Daphne to be surrounded by beauty.

“This year Jack has done a couple based on literature and books and fantasy. I think that’s because he reads all these books to her.

“What we don’t want is to make it too academic. We don’t want to frighten people with terminology that might be inaccessible.

“We want people to recognise a narrative running through or maybe make one up for themselves.”

Lizzie advised fledgling collectors to grab a drink, talk to the artists and pick a theme to follow rather than trying to view everything.

They are giving visitors a helping hand with an art and interiors section, a talk on women in print, curator tours, family printing workshops and artist demonstrations. 

A New Collectors’ Evening on November 12 will include advice from industry leaders, a DJ set and complimentary cocktails. Online they will be using #findartthatfits so people can snap a pic of their space and receive suggestions of works that might fit into it.

There will also be edits of prints under £100, £300 and £500 and the Fair has partnered with OwnArt so buyers can pay for a print for as little as £10 a month.

“The nature of print is that you can get an original artwork at a lower price or enhance a collection by bringing in a really well known name,” said Lizzie.

“It is a less intimidating step into contemporary art and you can’t buy bad at the fair because it has all been curated or chosen by these industry experts. We really want to become the place to go for contemporary print.”

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Canary Wharf: Summer Lights work by Liz West is perfectly placed at Cabot Square

Hymn To The Big Wheel fuses Spice Girls and Massive Attack just across from Boisdale

Artist Liz West at Greenwich Peninsula - image Charles Emerson
Artist Liz West at Greenwich Peninsula – image Charles Emerson

You’d struggle to find a more appropriately placed artwork in London than Liz West’s Hymn To The Big Wheel. Installed in Canary Wharf as part of its Summer Lights festival, featuring 11 works placed across the estate until August 21, the walk-in structure at Wren Landing is composed of vertical, deeply coloured panels for visitors to interact with.

While the work is visual in nature, it’s sound that links it by coincidence to Cabot Square, just south of its location – where restaurant and live music venue Boisdale Of Canary Wharf has played host to both pop sensation Mel C and, more regularly, reggae powerhouse Horace Andy. 

“If you Google me you’ll find out I’m the Guinness World Record holder for the biggest collection of Spice Girls memorabilia in existence,” said Liz.

“I hired out my collection to museums when I graduated and that’s how I managed to become an artist full-time, so every piece of my work owes something to that. 

“There’s also the idea of every piece being a self portrait, that the colours are borrowed from my obsession with music videos in the 1990s, that garish, Britpop palette.

“I’d always liked strong female artists and, in 1996, I was 11 – the target age. I remember watching Top Of The Pops one day – they came on and I was like: ‘These are for me’. I heard the first few lines of Wannabe and I thought, this is exactly representing me – they were all individuals, loud, girls-next-door and not necessarily wealthy.

“To a girl from Barnsley who wanted to strive for more, when seeing that I felt that if I worked hard enough and was passionate enough, I could achieve what I wanted to.”

Visitors can enter Hymn To The Big Wheel - image Matt Grayson
Visitors can enter Hymn To The Big Wheel – image Matt Grayson

Before cueing up a Spotify playlist packed with Spice Girls hits for your visit to Summer Lights, Liz’s contribution actually takes inspiration from another 1990s source.

“I love music and dancing, and I grew up with music around me,” she said. “I always try to find a bit of a double meaning to give more substance to my titles, so this one is a reference to Massive Attack’s Hymn Of The Big Wheel from Blue Lines, and if you listen to the lyrics in that song, it talks about the Earth spinning on its axis and how we all go by, day by day.

“I thought that was a wonderful sentiment, because this is a piece of work aiming to be a sundial, and that’s caused by the Earth revolving, and the ‘Big Wheel’ being the planetary system, with our planet going round its star – ‘hymn’ shows this work is also an homage to the Sun. 

“I would love people to walk into the work with the sound of Massive Attack playing – they might start dancing and become performers within it as they move around it.”

And that’s especially appropriate for its location as fellow trip-hop nerds will know the lead voice on that track is Horace Andy, whose quavering, high-pitched tones, as mentioned, have regularly blasted out from Boisdale’s stage, prompting audience members to get to their feet, just a few hundred metres away.

As for the work itself, Hymn To The Big Wheel has been a long time coming – an opportunity for Liz to revisit an idea originally conceived for a completely different place.

“It’s two concentric octagons – a piece I’ve had in the back of my head for a long, long time,” she said.

“When I was first invited to submit a proposal for Spinningfields, Allied London’s property in Manchester in 2015, I had this drawing for an octagon pavilion which had coloured clear walls, just transparent block colours, not stripy in the way that it is now. That drawing was proposed and developed into something that was affordable at the time. It was my first piece of outdoor, public art, and, working with fabricators for the first time in my life, it was a big milestone for me in terms of my practice.

“The piece ended up going from being an octagon, to a tunnel to a prism structure, and that was due mainly to structural issues, like snow-loading and wind-loading in a Manchester winter.

“When I was asked to propose a piece for Summer Lights I didn’t know what I was going to do so  went through all my drawings and stumbled across one I’d made six years ago.

“I asked myself how I could bring that up to date and I was listening to that Massive Attack track at the time and it all kind of slotted into place in a really nice way.

Inside Liz West's Hymn To The Big Wheel - image Matt Grayson
Inside Liz West’s Hymn To The Big Wheel – image Matt Grayson

“Then it was about placing one colour overlapping another to get visible colour mixing happening in front of people’s eyes. 

“All my work is about the theory of how light behaves – in this case a sundial – and how colour behaves.

“I get lots of samples of the exact material, and I layer them over each other in a very methodical way – starting with the reds and putting every single colour over them, then the oranges and so on.

“At the back of my head is the thought that there are a number of panels in the installation, so I need that number of colour mixes. Then it becomes a matter of detraction – taking away colours that I don’t feel are working together. There’s an element of instinct within that as well.

“This world is full of grey granite, silver metal and reflective glass – that’s how most buildings are being made. I guess I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, that’s important to say, and randomly – choosing to live in grey, northern cities and towns – Barnsley, where I grew up, Manchester, where I live now and Glasgow, where I studied – my antidote to living in these wet, grey, northern cities is to self-remedy by creating these really vivid works. 

“The feeling I want people to have when they encounter my work is meditative, for it to be about them. I don’t want to describe to people how they should feel. Everyone speaks the language of colour, no matter what your race, sex, age or background – it’s universal.”

Find out more about Liz’s art here.

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