diamond geezer

 Sunday, January 15, 2017

A large hollow wooden egg has arrived in London. It's not just an egg, it's an artist's studio, and it floats. It spent a year on a river in the New Forest, and is now travelling around the country on tour. It's the creation of the artist Stephen Turner (who once spent six weeks living alone in the sea forts off the north Kent coast). It's the Exbury Egg, and it's in town until the end of the month.

The egg started out on a salt marsh in Hampshire, just down the estuary from Beaulieu, within the grounds of horticultural attraction Exbury Gardens. It was specially created using boatbuilding technology, and tethered to the shore via a short pontoon so that it could rise and fall with the tide. Inside, Stephen created sustainable artworks based on digital imagery and found objects, focusing on the experience of a year spent up the creek. Later he took the egg to a canalside in Burnley and spent six months living and working there, and now he's taking the egg on a tour of four further locations, of which Trinity Buoy Wharf is the first.

You won't stumble upon the Exbury Egg by accident. For a start you're unlikely to visit Trinity Buoy Wharf by accident, it's at the most inaccessible point in Tower Hamlets at the mouth of Bow Creek. Even then the egg's well hidden, this time indoors, just past Fatboys Diner and the lighthouse, within the Chain Store on the Thames-facing quay. Step inside to view the egg in its London guise - as a large-form sculpture - and to see a small exhibition of associated artworks.

The egg's wooden shell is beautifully constructed, with openings for doors on either side and now stained with a tidal patina. With this stop on the tour being landlocked you have to climb a stepladder to clamber inside, and to discover the artist's studio laid out like a particularly cosy cabin. Jars and bottles, candles and books, all manner of items are tucked along the walls, plus a bed at the far end and a tiny galley kitchen to the side. What looks like the broom cupboard doubled up as a rudimentary shower, but it's not too hard to picture the place as an artistic laboratory among the reeds.

The exhibition includes several ovoid forms constructed from natural materials, including blackthorn thinnings and bladderwrack, plus a variety of drawings using oak ink. A long cabinet includes such delicacies as Blackberry Wine, Sloe Gin and Dandelion Root Coffee, originally locally sourced, while there are also three videos to watch (except, as with most exhibitions, nobody ever sits down and takes the time). You'll enjoy the exhibition more if you stop to engage with Stephen or his wife - they're very keen to fill in the background detail (and delighted to have visitors who haven't merely turned up to scope the room as a potential wedding venue).

The Exbury Egg will be at Trinity Buoy Wharf for the next two weeks, with outreach activities including a downriver walk on Saturday 28th January led by Stephen starting out from the Nunnery Gallery in Bow Road. After that it's going to another canal (Grand Union, Milton Keynes: 3 Apr - 14 May), a shopping centre (Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth: 16 Jun - 3 Sep) and the seaside (Jerwood Gallery, Hastings: 16 Sep - 15 Oct). It'll probably look much more impressive on the water in these other locations but, given Easter's still some way off, an indoor egg certainly has its appeal.

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