Friday, January 27th 2017
I recounted how on Friday last week we went to see the Winter Lights at Canary Wharf in Docklands (see Winter lights). On the occasion we did not see all the exhibits and Tigger was keen to go back and see the others. We had only a limited time in which to do this as the exhibition ends on January 27th – yes, today! This time I was better prepared because Tigger had let me know her intention and so I had my camera with me.
Below are photos of some of the exhibits that we saw and, mixed in with these, a few pictures Canary Wharf at night. Despite it being a Friday – or perhaps because of that – Canary Wharf was crowded. The Winter Lights exhibition had obviously caught people’s interest and it was sometimes difficult or even impossible to get a clear shot of some of the exhibits.
We started our exploration in Cabot Square in the middle of which resides a large and handsome fountain. You can also see parts of one of the exhibits in the photo.
Literally towering over Cabot Square (and over much else of Docklands) is the building that for most people is synonymous with Docklands and Canary Wharf, a tower whose shallow pyramidal roof bears a flashing light as a warning to helicopters and low flying aircraft. (London City Airport is nearby.) Often wrongly called ‘Canary Wharf’, it is officially known as One Canada Square.
The artwork in Cabot Square is called Huge Reeds and is by French artist Pitaya. Here’s what the catalogue says about it:
Tall, slightly curved vertical tubes stand proudly in Canary Wharf’s environment. A light sap appears to flow slowly from the bottom to the top of each reed changing them into strange gigantic living forms. Their towering height makes the viewer feel small and plays with this scale difference.
As is often the case with works that are described in art-speak, what the text says and what the viewer feels are not necessarily the same thing. I have expressed my scepticism about this on previous occasions and will say no more about it here.
In Adams Plaza we found Water Wall by Andrew Bernstein and Gregory St Pierre. Quite pretty, quite clever. Thus the catalogue:
Water Wall is an interactive installation that explores the relationship of movement, shape and sound through the mediums of light and water. A mist screen transforms water into a canvas for bright projections, allowing movement and sound. The images projected onto the mist screen seemingly float over the surface of the water creating a dynamically changing immersive experience.
As lights are easy to control electronically, most of the exhibits featured moving lights or changing colours and to be properly appreciated really need to be watched ‘in real time’, not in still photos.
Also in Adams Plaza is Cathedral of Mirrors by Danish artist Mads Christensen and Quays Culture. It is a work that is designed to respond to people walking by or through it:
Twelve towering columns of light respond to visitors’ movements via high-tech sensors. Pulses of light are sent racing through the columns generating more light energy as people congregate. Cathedral of Mirrors envelops viewers in a three-dimensional field of light where they themselves become part of the expression.
We crossed over into Crossrail Place which sits like a island (or a moored cargo ship) in the North Dock. The name gives a clue as to its nature: this retail centre is the superstructure of the Crossrail station that lies below it under the ground. It is separated from the Canary Wharf ‘mainland’ by a narrow strip of water. My eye was caught by this rather dramatic vista of converging parallel lines.
Here we find a second attempt on the theme of Huge Reeds (see above for details).
One of the nicer features of Crossrail Place is that it has a covered roof garden. This is a pleasant place in which to stroll or sit and enjoy the plants and the views over London. It has also proved to be a good place in which to exhibit works of art. The most recent, but surely not the last such work, is Liter of Light by Mick Stephenson. To my eye, it somewhat resembled a fabulous market stall displaying luminous jewellery. The official explanation is a little more prosaic:
This installation, co-created by children from George Green’s School on the Isle of Dogs, pays homage to the distinctive pyramidal apex of One Canada Square and the Liter of Light project that brings light to places where electricity is not an option. Mick spent over 20 years in the music industry but always maintained a strong interest in working with light and has created a number of successful light installations and exhibitions throughout the UK.
Like Cathedral of Mirrors, this work, called Our Spectral Vision, by Liz West, consists of columns illuminated with a changing pattern of colours. Here, though, the seven columns stand in a line and you can walk by them but not through them.
Luminous colour and radiant light mixed with the environment in seven large-scale prisms invite visitors to explore their relationship with colour and the science of light. By replicating the diversion of white light, pure saturated colour drenches the space to form a vivid, sensory experience. Dichroic glass is used within the structures to create a sense of movement as the viewer explores the work in greater depth.
We decided to take a break at this point and go somewhere for a early supper. We returned to Cabot Place where there is a large complex for retail and dining called Cabot Place East. On the upper floor there are restaurants and I took the above photo of its multi-level structure by pointing my camera between the up and down escalators.
On the way down the aforesaid escalator, I turned my camera vertically upwards and secured a partial view of the impressive roof.
Afterwards, we returned to Cabot Square (not to be confused with Cabot Place) where I photographed two old friends: Lynn Chadwick’s sculpture Couple on Seat. (For a daylight photo, see West India Quay plus 1, last picture.)
From Cabot Square we walked north to meet the North Dock again and the North Dock footbridge, seen above. This was completed in 1996 and is supported over the water by floating pontoons. It can be opened to allow boats to pass through but acts mostly as a welcome short cut for pedestrians between Canary Wharf and West India Quay. It was illuminated and looked quite dramatic against the dark areas around it.
In this view one can see the elegant curve of the bridge and, behind it, another bridge, this one carrying Docklands Light Railway trains to and from West India Quay Station on the left.
These boards, moored on mirror-smooth water, are tied up at West India Quay.
We travelled west to Westferry Circus where we hoped to find the last Winter Lights exhibits that we had not yet seen. I photographed this scene with its rather surreal combination of illuminated trees and tower cranes lit with their aircraft warning lights.
Here we found Bloom, the work of an international group of artists collectively called Squidsoup. All the lights were on a level and it was therefore virtually impossible to get a good photo without somehow getting up off the ground. The lamps continually changed colour, sometimes all with a single colour, but usually with changing patterns. The catalogue:
Imagine a thousand globes of light, each on a stalk and swaying gently in the breeze. The lights visualise waves of energy flowing across the space, responding in synchronicity to sudden changes in ambience, acknowledging the depths of winter yet anticipating a still distant spring. Additionally each node is location-aware and able to communicate, which allows it to be part of an overall coherent effect and choreography.
Our last exhibit was easier to photograph but because it was so large, many views would be possible. By Polish artists Joachim Slugocki and Katarzyna Malekja, it is entitled Horizontal Interference. It is described as a ‘site-specific’ work because the exact form depends on where it is displayed:
This modular site-specific installation links the tops of trees with streams of light. A colourful structure of horizontal lines winds from tree to tree, bringing an element of logical geometric arrangement to the urban environment. creating a powerful and poetic image.
The exhibition was obviously very popular and crowds of people were moving around, like us, from exhibit to exhibit. Many were taking photos with cameras or their mobiles.
I was pleased to have completed my viewing of the exhibition but also quite glad when it was time to make for the bus stop and climb aboard a nice warm bus! Before leaving, though, I took a last photo looking across the night-time Thames.