'Collaborating with the earth' - new art works from deep beneath London Bridge on show at Southwark Cathedral
In 2015 ceramics artist Alison Cooke watched as a piling machine dug up the earth to create new foundations at London Bridge Thameslink redevelopment project. To the engineers, this clay being excavated from 30 metres below the station was spoil; to Alison it was an incredible opportunity to work with exciting and unusual raw materials.
The clay was laid down approximately 54 million years ago, a time when England was situated near where Spain sits today, London and Kent were under a warm shallow sea, and the mountains of Wales had yet to be formed.
Known to excavators as "London blue", this clay is challenging to work with, prone to cracking, bloating and discolouration. It has been rarely used in its raw form outside the brick-making industry. ACWU decided to avoid mixing it with commercial additives that could have removed its unpredictabilities and embrace the natural behaviour of the clay. The resulting works are collaborative efforts between each artist and the earth below.
Alison approached Network Rail who provided 360kg of clay. Batches were given to seven fellow members of Associated Clay workers Union (ACWU), with a brief to create ceramic works that responded to South London’s rail network and the history of the London Bridge area. The resulting work is displayed at Southwark Cathedral until 5 February, admission is free. For more information about the artists who are exhibiting, see the ACWU website
IMAGE: Bea Denton - Transience and transubstantiation (Photo: monica Wells)
Bea Denton has used unfired London Bridge clay to create an ordinary memorial to those who have passed through the station over the last two centuries.
The memorials, encased in Bible paper, are future relics that immortalise these anonymous and fleeting journey-makers heading towards their final destination.
The exhibition at Southwark Cathedral continues until 5 February 2017
Supported by the The Craft Pottery Charitable Trust.
With thanks to Network Rail, Thameslink, Costain and Southwark Cathedral.
Photographs Monica Wells/Network Rail