‘The Thames Wunderkammer: Tales from Victoria Embankment in Two Parts’
An artwork created by Simon Roberts and commissioned by Tideway, 2017
About the work:
Responding to the rich heritage of the Victoria Embankment, Simon Roberts has created a metaphorical ‘cabinet of curiosities’ along two 25-metre foreshore hoardings.
Roberts describes his approach as an ‘aesthetic excavation of the area’, creating an artwork that reflects the literal and metaphorical layering of the landscape, in which objects from the past and present are juxtaposed to evoke new meanings. Monumental statues are placed alongside items that are more ordinary; diverse elements, both man-made and natural, co-exist in new ways. All these components symbolise the landscape’s complex history, culture, geology, and development.
His artwork includes dramatic photographs of local landmarks and statuary such as Cleopatra’s Needle and the London Sphinx, precious objects from the Museum of London and the Imperial War Museum, historical illustrations e.g. ‘Monster Soup commonly called Thames Water’ 1828 by William Heath; as well as objects he found from mudlarking on the nearby foreshore.
Feedback from passers-by includes: “The work makes me think about variety, the diversity and richness of London. We walk on history and this work uncovers some of it.” … “Very intriguing. Makes you curious.”
Visitors to the artist’s talk were delighted by the richness of the historical information brought to light by the artwork, which Tideway will make accessible on their website in due course.