You arrive at what feels a derelict wasteland as you walk down the stairs from West Silvertown station on the DRL, with a shiny huge tin of Golden Syrup advertising the Tate and Lyle building in the distance. Easily missed, because the DLR runs so close to its façade that you could almost put your hand out and touch it, the Silver Building is emerging like a butterfly, not from a cocoon, but from the shell of a derelict post-war industrial building, its windows broken and the entrance hidden in a car park round the back. Here is a project of vision, in an area that will have been transformed within the next decade as the old industrial sites are regenerated, a project to create a new centre for arts and creativity, a building from which you can see the new buildings of North Greenwich, the Emirates cable cars, the dome of the O2 and aircraft flying overhead to and from City Airport.
The vision of Nick Hartwright, with support from the GLA, the derelict shell is being refurbished to provide artists’ studios, exhibition, cafe and other spaces, while keeping the essence of its current character, as London’s newest creative hub and, in advance of the major works, the current exhibition the “Silver Sehnsucht”, a counterbalance to Frieze in Regent’s Park, takes inspiration from the history of Silvertown and the atmosphere of the building, looking at the past to inform the future.
Different spaces, one as small as a broom cupboard, have been taken over by 12 artists from around the world working in a variety of media. Hanging from the ceiling in the first space, Christopher Stead’s “Heterotopic Tourist” feels as if they have been here as long as the building has been derelict, perhaps a reminder of the people who once worked here, Jazoo Yang’s paintings and Matterlurgy’s sculptures from found materials refer back to the industrial archaeology of the area and Rosani Antoli’s installation ‘Chaos Dancing Chaos’ fills the room with dancing rubber cables set against views across to North Greenwich, a reminder of the former rubber industry in Silvertown. Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll’s ‘Embassy Embassy’ explores representation and national identity, drawing on material from the former Iraq and Australian embassies in East Berlin, Paolo Torres Nunez del Pardo’s textiles refer both backwards to traditional weaving and forwards to code and data, and Poklong Anading’s “Without,Within” is full of contradictions – discarded bags, inflated and covered in gold paint to become items of luxury, slowly breaking down and losing their lustre – perhaps a reflection of the cycles of urban development or perhaps a reflection on the commercial art market.
An inspiring exhibition of new work in this atmospheric derelict environment, the essence of which will be retained in the exhibition spaces as the building is refurbished.