A walk and talk with artist Simon Roberts whose Thames Tideway Tunnel hoarding commission The Thames Wunderkammer: Tales from Victoria Embankment in Two Parts is currently on show at Victoria Embankment.
Participants are invited to gather outside Embankment Underground Station (River Thames exit) where the artist will meet you and take you on a short walk to the site of the hoarding. There, he will discuss his 25-metre ‘cabinet of curiosities’ that presents a fascinating and diverse collection of objects from the past and present. Ancient swords, photographs from the women’s pro-suffrage march and comical engarvings of the dirty water of the Thames contribute to an artwork that reflects the area’s complex history, geology and devleopment.
Simon Roberts’ commission draws on exciting research with the Museum of London, British Museum, Houses of Parliament, Parliamentary Archives, Parliamentary Art Collection, Wellcome Trust, and Thames 21; and Flowers Gallery London.
The event is free and can be booked here: TICKETS
This event is part of Totally Thames, which takes place over the month of September and brings the river to life via an exciting season of arts, cultural and river events throughout the 42-mile stretch of the Thames in London.
More information about Tideway’s arts programme is available here: https://www.tideway.london/news/media-centre/tideway-launches-vision-for-public-art-to-celebrate-history-and-culture-of-the-river-thames/
Image: Detail from Part One of the The Thames Wunderkammer
‘The Thames Wunderkammer: Tales from Victoria Embankment in Two Parts’ is a new body of work produced as part of a public art commission on behalf of Tideway.
London has outgrown its sewerage system. The capacities originally allowed for in the sewer network designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette in the 1850s have been extended and now exceeded. The Thames Tideway Tunnel (scheduled for completion in 2022) will upgrade London’s sewerage system to cope with the demands of the city well into the 22nd century.
Tideway launched a new temporary art commission, to be located on the hoarding surrounding the Victoria Embankment Foreshore construction site, in central London; it is close to key central London landmarks, including the Houses of Parliament and Portcullis House, Hungerford Bridge and Whitehall Gardens.
Responding to the rich heritage of the site, I’ve created a metaphorical ‘cabinet of curiosities’ along the two 25-metre foreshore hoardings. Modern terminology would categorize the objects included as belonging to natural history, geology, ethnography, archaeology, religious or historical relics, works of art and antiquities.
The work is an aesthetic excavation of the area, creating an artwork that reflects the literal and metaphorical layering of the landscape, in which objects from the past and present are juxtaposed to evoke new meanings. Monumental statues are placed alongside items that are more ordinary; diverse elements, both man-made and natural, co-exist in new ways. All these components symbolise the landscape’s complex history, culture, geology, and development.
Installation shots of the work:
About the Thames foreshore:
The Thames foreshore is the longest archaeological site in London. Discoveries include: prehistoric archaeological remains at sites from Greenwich to Putney; Anglo-Saxon fish traps, the remains of Medieval, Tudor and Stuart jetties, re-used warship timbers, river defences, stairs, causeways, slipways, wharves, crane bases, bargebeds, drains and vessels, from throughout Greater London. The foreshore is also full of interesting artefacts, ranging from clay pipes and pottery fragments dating as far back as the Roman and prehistoric periods to flint tools, animal (and occasionally human!) bone, trading tokens and coins.
I have a new series of photographs published in the April 2016 issue of National Geographic Magazine, alongside an article by Ken Otterbourg: ‘How Urban Parks Are Bringing Nature Close to Home’
My photographic narrative offers a timeline of urban parks beginning in 1660, when St. James’s Park in London was made available to the public, up to the present day. It illustrates the evolving nature of urban parks over time and the philosophies behind them, reflecting the cultural history and social values of their origin. It includes photographs of urban parks in London, Barcelona, Katowice, San Francisco, New York, Houston, Seoul and Toronto.
In 2012 I was commissioned to make a series of photographs that would help bring a sense of identity to acute inpatient departments within a major new hospital building in Bristol, UK. In response to this commission, I’ve created a new body of work reflecting the city’s culture, landscape and history. My final set of photographs have now been installed across seven floors within the new adult ward block and emergency department of the Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI) hospital and are intended to enrich the hospital environment for patients and staff.
The works follow the pattern of much of my previous studies, that is, photographs that deal with the relationship between landscape and people, and notions of identity and belonging. The final installed artworks explore the relationship that people living in the Bristol and South West have with their landscape, landmarks and pastimes, whilst depicting the multi-cultural and social diversity of the region.
As is common with my practice I also added a collaborative element to the commission, offering the public an opportunity to participate directly with the project. I felt it was important to give the public an opportunity to help steer the project, given that the BRI is at the heart of Bristol’s community and that many people have an invested interest in the future of the hospital; be they former patients, current employees or visiting relatives.
Throughout the commission I worked with hospital staff and the local community, whilst also collaborating with cultural partners including M Shed, the Bristol Records Office and Artshine. Members of the public were invited to submit their own photographs inspired by the region and over 1,400 were uploaded to the project website (www.beholdrespondinspire.com), which has become a permanent online gallery and legacy for the project.
The final installed works include:
– Large-format framed landscape prints that reflect the unique culture, identity and interests of Bristol’s community that the hospital serves.
– Alongside my own contemporary landscape scenes, I sourced historic photographs from the same locations to prompt memory for patients suffering with dementia.
– ‘The Public Gallery’, a large five-metre collage based on a photograph I took of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, made up from over 2000 photographs submitted by the public.
– A series of themed collage pieces made up of images submitted by the public.
– Floor-to-ceiling ‘fauna portraits’ photographed in allotments and communal gardens sited within the vicinity of the hospital, along with images from Westonbirt National Arboretum.
– Images printed directly on to ceiling tiles installed above ward beds featuring canopies of trees and hot air balloons photographed from the perspective of someone looking up.
You can download a pdf with more installation shots and a full description of the final works here.
The project, commissioned by local hospitals’ charity Above & Beyond, was part of an arts programme for the BRI redevelopment, which consisted of a number of refurbishments and new builds for University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust.
Commissioner: University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust
Partners: Laing O’Rourke, Coda, M-Shed, Artshine, Bristol Records Office
Supported by: Above & Beyond Golden Gift Appeal
Produced by: Willis Newson
I’ve recently completed an assignment for the New York Times T Magazine in Bhutan, which features on the cover of the current November 2014 issue (see above).
& here are two previous assignments we’ve collaborated on:
Some work I made in Tblisi, Georgia, is featured in this weekend’s The New York Times T Magazine.
View the slideshow here.
The accompanying story ‘In Tbilisi, Georgia, Bold New Buildings Rise From the Ruins of Dead Empires’ was written by Joshua Levine. Read the article here.
As part of my commission to produce work for the redevelopment of the Bristol Royal Infirmary, I”m putting out a call for submissions to create a public gallery of photographs. This is an opportunity to be part of a creative community-based project that will enhance the experience of the staff, patients and visitors of the BRI.
Submitted photographs will be displayed in an (see some of the samples above) and may also be incorporated in one of the final artworks, which will be displayed in new adult wards in the redeveloped Bristol Royal Infirmary when it opens in 2014.
If you live in the South West region, which is served by the BRI, why not get involved by
sending us a photograph which responds to the theme of community, sustainability and inspiring change. Think about what your local area means to you and find images that reflect the people, landscape and character of Bristol.
Jemima and the cross, Brighton, 13 March 2013 © Simon Roberts
This photograph of my daughter was taken for the project Someone I Know, conceived and curated by Stuart Pilkington it brings together newly produced portraits taken by over 100 photographers around the world.
The brief for the photographers was to take a portrait of someone they know, no matter how loosely. And the results were published on the site on 2nd April 2013. See the results on the project website: http://someoneiknow.net/
And here’s the project facebook page- https://www.facebook.com/someoneiknowproject?ref=ts&fref=ts
I’m currently in Russia working on a project about preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Photograph: Construction of the Olympic Stadium in Sochi. © McKenzie Funk, February 2013.