Gravesend & the Thames Estuary


Estuary English (2015), graphite, charcoal, mud from Bawley Bay, rubber tyre, marine rope, unstretched canvas, 200 x 700cm


For the last three years, I have been researching and responding to an area of marginal land on the edge of the Thames in Gravesend, Kent. I grew up nearby, my father worked in a factory there, and my grandfather worked on the river. The area has had many different uses. Traces of its past are scattered around the area, creating a contemporary, piranasian scene. An example of this is a recently discovered bear pit, which was part of a pleasure gardens that existed there in the mid eighteen hundreds. More recently, it was industrial. In the last forty years the factories have been demolished, and the whole area is in a new state of transition.

Urban hinterland can be used as a medium to explore ideas such as neglect, chaos, wilderness, defragmentation, abandonment, marginalization, community and banality. Abandoned spaces can be seen as landscape not merely in waiting, but as a valuable space in itself, free from capitalist concerns. This blank canvas allows a freedom of expression and ideas.

Discovering different stories about Gravesend and it’s connections to the Thames  enabled me to reconnect with the town that I left many years ago.

My initial responses have been figurative drawings, each work concentrating on one particular idea or story that I have found interesting. In the culmination of these works I produced the large painting “Estuary English”, and the film “Voyage on the Verifier”. These conceptual works express the encapsulation of the many layers of history, of temporality, and constant flowing of time.

This area of Gravesend, like many around the country, is on the verge of a new life. Developers are building here again, in a continuation of the cycle of renewal and destruction that capitalism is dependent upon.