St Katharine Docks

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Thames Drawing #2

Thames Drawing #2
11:00 - 17:00, Devon House
Meet artist Ros Burgin the artist behind the Thames Drawing #2, a four meter long drawing mapping the River using names of boats that use the Thames woven into a continuous piece of text which exactly charts its twists and turns. This original graphite drawing describes the 42-mile stretch known as the Tidal Thames flowing through Central London from Teddington Lock in the west to the Thames Barrier in the east. Find out more (=link to your blog site?)

Working Process
The making of Thames Drawing #2 involved some research in to the history of the Thames and how it operates now as multi faceted resource. The artist travelled up and down the river using many of the passenger boats and chatted to their crews about what they thought about working on the river. Then she cycled along the north and south banks exploring the whole riverside and getting to know the shape and feel of its character. All the boats she saw over a period of weeks were recorded, not only the privately owned vessels and houseboats but also the working fleet as well as the fast sleek boats used by the London Rowing Club. Then considerable time was spent in the studio organising the data and researching materials and playing around with different scales before choosing to present this work as a ploytytch across 4 panels.

The geology of the planet is in flux and relatively speaking constantly changing shape and the expanse of the Tidal Thames has left its mark on the landscape and also deep within the earth in the form of sea-salt. This work is a response to the mark making and the traces of a former presence of the ancient Thames. The lightness of touch expressed with drawing seemed an appropriate medium to echo the temporary traces boats create with their passage, evident in their wake and bow-wave, and for those moored boats that cause the river to lift them twice daily and ebb and flow around them. Writing appeared to be an apposite vehicle to convey the observable disturbance of the surface of the water. The act of writing the eventual list of names became a performance, sounding out the different languages and combinations of letters and words creating a roll call of peoples and nations. Each name reveals something of the personality of the owners in their choice to call their boat after a person, place, journey, purpose, action, desire or an expression of their sense of humour.

Devon House in St Katharine Docks is a perfect place to launch this work as it offers an open view of the river and all the boat traffic can be seen from in front of the drawing adding a unique resonance between site and work.

The origins of St Katharine Docks can be traced back to the 10th century when King Edgar gave 13 acres of land to 13 Knights in order for them to trade in foreign goods. Since then St Katharine Docks has remained a centre of trade and commerce playing an important part in the life of London. The famous engineer Thomas Telford designed the docks which took just two year to build and were completed in 1828. For the first time ever the warehouses were built close to the dock walls so that cargoes could be raised into buildings directly out of the ship’s hold saving valuable time.
The Docks were designed primarily to handle valuable cargoes such as Ivory, shells, sugar, marble, wines, spices, and perfumes and as late as the 1930’s were described as having “the greatest concentration of portable wealth.”

London established itself via the Thames as a centre where rare and exotic goods arrived from around the world. Trade fuelled by people’s insatiable desire for the new and rare commodities gave rise to conspicuous consumption and display.
Speed was of the essence as the first to land the precious cargo was rewarded with the highest prices and so markets drove a revolution in shipbuilding and the redesign of vessels to be the swiftest on the water. Fortunes were founded and foundered on individual ships but with a third of ships never making it home, sailing to the far corners of the planet became too risky for any single company and financiers realised they had to do something to mitigate all that risk. As a result, a unique corporation was formed in 1600 called “Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading with the East Indies”. This was the famous East India Company. The legacy of trade and the wealth that flowed from it is visible in the institutions and buildings which shaped the city and line the riverbanks.

Thames Drawing #2 is a part of a series of art-works based on the Thames in which the Artist is exploring the nature of the River bisecting London and exhibiting these artworks in various city locations to engage the public in the life of the River Thames. If you would like to commission a work to be made reflecting your business and location along side the River please get in touch.