Watch artists at work without even stepping inside

Art & Culture

Watch artists at work without even stepping inside

Something wonderful has happened in Royal Albert Wharf. Right now, artists are hard at work in Art in the Docks, the neighbourhood’s new gallery, and you can catch a glimpse at the process through the window, fully Covid-safe.

The artists will change weekly, but the work they create will stay in the gallery, combining to form The Voyage, a joint exhibition envisioned by co-founder Sarah Lang. The Voyage opened on 15 February and will continue until the end of lockdown, with an official launch event bringing it to a close in a clever reversal. This is the first initiative from the brand new community space, launched by Bow Arts artists to bridge the gap between the arts hub and the Royal Docks community.

Things have moved fast for Art in the Docks, located just across the water from RAW Labs. We caught up with co-founder Christopher Mike, who alongside Vincenzo Muratore was the first artist to take up residence as part of The Voyage.

“This is a community project – an artists’ collective project. It’s already been a fantastic exercise in bringing people together,” says Christopher as we speak via video. “I’m covered in paint because we’ve just finished the space, and the signage just went up today,” he adds.

Artist standing by the window next to a painted scroll Artist bending over to work on a scroll on the floor

Scrolling Along

Neda Dana Haeri worked on scribing scrolls to form a journal of her week’s residency.

Large abstract painted scroll hung up in window with dock view outside

Art Rituals

Painting by Yuliya V Krylova, a multi-disciplinary artist who works with painting, costume design and performance art.

Christopher has been working in the Royal Docks for four years now: “In the time I’ve been there, there’s been a real influx of [artists] and we’ve got a really interesting cohort. We’ve got photographers, designers, puppet-makers, textile designers.” He himself is a plein air painter, painting outdoors in all sorts of weather: “In the right light, the Tate & Lyle refinery seen across the Thames is every bit as beautiful as looking at the San Giorgio across the lagoon in Venice.”

“I've been doing a lot of paintings of the built landscape of East London, trying to show the beauty that can be found in everything around us. The Royal Docks is an interesting place. The sunsets are amazing, the views across the water – you more or less have the complete transit of the sun from east to west across the docks.”

In the right light, the Tate & Lyle refinery seen across the Thames is every bit as beautiful as looking at the San Giorgio across the lagoon in Venice.

Christopher Mike, Art in the Docks co-founder

Wanting to bring art to the people of the Royal Docks is a key motivation behind Art in the Docks. “Artists often disappear into their little artistic bubbles, creating in isolation. Not because we’re anti-social, but the creative process requires commitment and quiet contemplation, and people get absorbed in what they’re doing,” says Christopher. The new gallery is a chance to change that: “This is about showing what we do to the community, and showcasing our work.”

Artists get absorbed in what they're doing. This is about showing what we do to the community.

Christopher Mike, Art in the Docks co-founder

Portrait of a man sitting inside with paintings and sculpture around him

After lockdown, the collective hopes to transform Art in the Docks into a community arts hub. “We want to have a community art competition later in the year,” says Christopher – maybe one for kids and one for adults, with an exhibition at the end. He is particularly keen to reach people who are interested in making art but don’t feel confident. “We would also like to get youth ambassadors involved in what we’re doing,” he says. This has already started to happen, when puppet designer Charlie Tymms had an initial residency in the Art in the Docks space and a local teenage girl helped her build her big dinosaurs.

Any competition will feature a people’s vote category. “I'm very committed to the idea that public artworks should genuinely be exciting to, well, the public,” he laughs. “In arts competitions, the prize which is most valued is the people’s vote, because the people will always tell you.”

Find out which artist is in residence right now on Art in the Docks is at 17 Lockside Way on Royal Albert Wharf, or follow along on Instagram.

View along the dock edge