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The art of the building site

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A new exhibition presents an engrossing exploration of London’s high-profile building sites, including the new Tate Modern extension

Convergence is an exhibition of work inspired by journeying the waterways and around the built environment of London. It includes a series of works by Luke M Walker documenting some of London’s most high-profile construction sites, including the recently finished Tate Modern extension, Battersea Power Station, the Trellick and Balfron towers and other Brutalist landmarks.

Often architectural artists take a precise and technical approach to translating buildings, or conversely their work ends up expressive and abstracted – the former arguably unemotional and the latter sometimes abstruse. Refreshingly, Walker’s work sits somewhere in between, with vibrant colours and dramatic painterly techniques imbuing his paintings with the character of the subjects, but balancing that with a representative draftsmanship and keen use of perspective.

His lively canvases of London landmarks under construction or refurbishment convincingly document the construction process, with recognisable architectural forms often emerging from shrouds of ghostly scaffolding. The work captures moments of ephemera in the pantheon of the ever-changing buildings and places of London. As the show notes say, ’The jangled dissonance of the city offers up a cacophony of information, and unveils wilderness at unexpected moments’.

Walker’s work is exhibited alongside artist Lucy Devenish, who documents the wild swimming that she did with Walker following the lost rivers of London from their sources to the Thames. Walker’s practice has involved repeatedly walking the city, not only to find his architectural subjects and observe their transformation, but for the merit of the walking itself – a tradition preceded by land artists like Richard Long, an inspiration of Walker’s.

The presentation of the exhibition echoes the themes of pedestrian travel and visitors are invited to ‘flow, meander, trace, explore’ the space, stepping between Walker’s suspended back-to-back canvases, Devenish’s wall-mounted photographs, video installation and a sprawling floor map detailing journeys made on foot together. It makes for an engrossing show in a small space that presents the rich spider’s web that is navigating and observing a historic city such as London in the present day - a charming challenge to look again, and more thoughtfully, at the world around us.

Convergence is open 11am - 5pm until 9 July at the Contemporary Collective, 12a Vyner St, London E2 9DG 

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