The Oval Cricket Ground, one of those hallowed places of English cricket, being home to Surrey County Cricket Club, was created at the Oval in South London in 1846, next door to a waterworks previously owned by the Southward & Vauxhall Waterworks Company who had sold the site a year earlier to the Phoenix Gas Light & Coke Company who adapted the brick structures of the two circular reservoirs to create gasholder tanks, the first gasholder being installed on the site in 1874, with another four to follow.
This first gasholder (No 1) was replaced in 1877-79 with a new one of two lifts having a capacity of 3 million cubic ft, making it the largest gasholder in the world at the time. If that wasn’t large enough, two more lifts were added in 1891-92 to double its capacity to 6 million cubic feet, creating the tall internationally-recognised landmark that us a backcloth to the Oval Cricket Ground.
The old 19th century gasholders started to go out of use from 1999 and decommissioning of the Oval Gasholders was announced in 2013. While plans for future redevelopment of the site by Berkeley Homes will retain the iconic No 1 Gasholder, the other four structures will sadly be lost in the redevelopment.
Next door, in a former industrial building, is another Gasworks, this one an arts centre established in 1994 which provides much-needed studios and residences to contemporary artists from London and elsewhere.
Unfortunately it will lose its immediate visual link with the adjacent gasholders which will be demolished but the regeneration will see change in the area. It is therefore perhaps appropriate that the current exhibition CITHRA by Glasgow-based Irish artist, following on from her recent residency, should raise questions about change and the impact of human interaction with the natural world.
Did you know, for example, that domestication of previously-wild animals such as canines has resulted in a 20% reduction in their size over generations. What would happen if we reversed things and reintroduced domesticated animals back into the wild. How would they cope? Would they regain their size and other original characteristics over time? How many generations would it take?
Lauren’s exhibition explores the imperceptible changes that occur all around us, connecting unusual materials and shapes and including two dogs who have this 20% difference in size, while in a further space the viewer is in a chamber which could be below the surface of the ocean or perhaps below a layer of ice….that’s for you to imagine….
There are links with the cult of Mithraeism, and the Temple of Mithras a few miles away in the City of London, for you the viewer to engage with and form your own view.