‘Time & Vision: New Work From Australian Artists, Australia Council for the Arts/Acme Studios’, 20 October – 11 November 2012, Bargehouse, OxoTower Wharf, South Bank, London, UK.

I had previously visited a gallery called Actualities in Narrow Street, Limehouse while in London during 1989. I was interested in revisiting a site, which in retrospect had been inspirational to me and to the development of my subsequent work. I wanted to produce a site-specific work, which would address the impact of architectural and social changes that had transformed the area. This would link conceptually with earlier work sourced from my Sydney studio: Site Works. With another visit to London, I found that during the intervening years since 1989 the docklands area had been almost totally changed. Many people who had been born and lived on the ‘Isle’ had left, and no longer knew the streets because so many had disappeared or irrevocably changed. Initially I found this quite overwhelming, the changes being so vast and complete. How could I as someone who was only to be there for a brief time comment on it with any real depth or understanding?

During the Australia Council, ACME residency I was invited to participate in the site-specific exhibition, Down the Drain in Birmingham with Fine Rats International, Rebecca Cummins and Jon Rose. We worked on a vast disused site (Angel Row) over six days, for a one-night spectacle. I produced a large-scale installation combining two photographic images: one of the images was a stone water- ramp, the Hard, from the 1700s (or earlier), on Southbank in front of the OXO Tower, and the other was that 1980s icon of Thatcher’s Britain – the Canary Wharf Tower, the tallest building in Europe then and the dominant view from my apartment window on the Isle of Dogs. The historical relationship of the River Thames to these structures and the water surrounding them interested me; now an embodiment of a lifestyle, then a practical necessity.

Later in the residency I was contacted by a researcher with the Coin Street Housing Group. The group was developing the OXO building on Southbank, directly behind the Hard. I was invited to visit the building and discuss the possibility of exhibiting the work at the site in November 1996, when the project was due to open. Unfortunately I was unable to take up this opportunity, as I had to return to Australia in October.

I found the London art community very interesting with a huge number of alternative spaces and contemporary galleries. It was relatively easy to make contact with other artists because of the shared language and also due to the fact that it was summer and many artists were working in their studios. This I found very stimulating and intense, so that when I returned to Australia it sustained me and I was able to produce a lot of work. Over the next several years I exhibited video and sculptural installations around the theme of water and history, which were a direct result of the residency.

Nicole Ellis
Excerpt from Time & Vision: Australia Council for the Arts, London Residencies 1992-2012, catalogue, page 39

View more

Image gallery
Use arrows to view