ebb and flow
I am drawn to water like a dowsing rod, always seeking the sound of water moving across stones, fast or slow, ebb or flow. It is soothing, helping to recalibrate my breath. The edge of the water, at first colourless, reveals multiple hues of grey then slowly flashes of blue china, smooth creamy white fragments of clay pipe, the sharp green of bottle glass, and finally the huge wooden hulls of barges, surrounded by clusters of rich rusting metal that once held it all together. Decayed and collapsed, these once solid fixings are mangled by the relentless ebb and flow of the Thames. Such fragments are sought and found, these relief sculptures are a reimagining of the shape, texture and form that they have been wrested from the end of their journey. These small montages will be reunited with the river via various piers marking the beginning of a series of interventions the journey is starting from my studio in Woolwich and hopefully finishing next year in Rotherhithe where so many huge powerful barges were left to meet their end.
In the 1930's Donald Sattin began working in a small inlet village off the Swale learning to build the barges we now see resting on fragments along the Thames "perhaps one of the worst jobs came near the completion of a new barge, and then we all went underneath, the youngest in the middle, I often had visions of the barge falling on me.... once underneath we started chiselling the waste tar and hair off the joints.This came off in a long strip and little bits stuck to our faces and got down our necks where the heat from our bodies melted them and joined out underwear to our skin..".(Just Off The Swale by D.L Sattin) It is so easy to romanticise the history of what we find along the Thames, the truth is so much harder and grittier.