The striking former hydraulic power station that is the Wapping Project’s original venue provides the backdrop for Christian Ferreira’s first exhibition, part of long-running curatorial project at the East London site. Run, Run, Run, is a large-scale installation by Dublin-born artist Emer O’Brien. O’Brien’s works point towards the haunting emptiness of objects and structures once imbued with human purpose – familiar landscapes and landmarks that now appear shrouded in melancholy, and take on the quasi-mystical presence of the unknown. Working with photography, light and film, Ian Jeffrey draws a parallel between O’Brien’s work and the New Sculpture movement of the 1960s – with its propensity for themes of absence and desolation in the inanimate.
Run, Run, Run follows on from work O’Brien has exhibited at key London institutions including the Whitechapel Gallery and the Royal Academy, and takes as its theme the attempts at reintroducing salmon breeding to the Thames. Housed in the water tower of the Hydraulic Power Station, this time-based installation consists of a giant roll of paper, treated with dyes, suspended above a container of water taken from the Thames. Through the process of chromatography, the pigmented water is drawn up into the paper creating streams of vibrant colour, referencing the continually evolving ebb and flow of the river, the every changing role of the power station as a structure, and the upstream journey of the salmon.
An impacting visual piece, regardless of the efficacy of the metaphor it seeks to conjure, O’Brien’s installation certainly provokes an interesting debate about the changing use of London’s scenery and infrastructures. The Thames was once a rich resource, playing a central role in city dweller’s daily lives, both for food and industry – now, via the undulating structure O’Brien has created, the functional is transformed into an aesthetic.
O’Brien, of course, is among several contemporary artists whose attention has turned to the city landscape, as a surface that relates social, ecological and historical change. Recent Turner Prize winner Susan Philipz’s pioneering use of space and surroundings heralds an era of art which anchors itself to a place, and highlights the dichotomous interplay between memory and presence, absence and loss.
Certainly in times when resources are being restricted, and we are being encouraged to recycle and reuse, O’Brien makes a pertinent point about the heedless commodification of our environment and surroundings.
-- Charlotte Jansen
All images courtesy the artist and Christian Ferreira at the Wapping Project
Images: Run Run Run (Instalation View), Emer O'Brien, 2010, Blotting paper, Indian ink, perspex container, water, Dimensions variable